For over half a decade I've been at home with children wiping boogers and slipping further away from the world of technology.
The majority of my daily communication is done in-person with humans who can’t cut their own food. Computers used to be part of my daily life. Now I rely on Post-It notes. I’ve heard of GooglePlus but I don’t know what it is, nor have I bothered to find out.
I use technology mainly for pleasure. Social media, when I find 15 minutes of free time, keeps me in tune with both news headlines and things like the easiest way to chop an onion. I have an iPad but usage law has kicked in and my kids have assumed ownership.
With each passing year, being a stay-at-home parent means being less up-to-date and more removed from technology. I can’t rely on an IT department to teach me the latest and greatest and there are no interns in my kitchen discussing what Apple product is being released. We all know that 60-something-year-old who dismissed the Internet as a fad and never learned how to email. I don’t want to sink into that clueless hole.
While of course I use technology, it is not fundamental to do my job as a stay-at-home parent. Quiet time would be louder without YouTube Kids, but it’s not essential. Operating the latest software or knowing the hottest app is not essential to getting through the day. Yet I can’t help fearing that while I’m busy changing diapers the world will leave me behind.
My quest to remain relevant recently brought me to Snapchat. Snapchat allows you to send photos or videos to friends; once viewed your photo/video vanishes never to be seen again. All the kids these days are snapping. Or chatting. Snapchatting. (I’m not clear yet on how we Snapchat users signify our use of the app.) Over 100 million people Snapchat daily so I figured I needed to try it out before it disappeared (pun intended).
After the kids went to bed one night I downloaded Snapchat and spent 30 minutes playing around. I’m not going to lie – I’m still not sure how to directly get around the app. There is a lot of swiping in a lot of different directions.
As a mother, I’m a professional wiper. Apparently that doesn’t translate to swiper. A little trial and error and I figured out how to take a selfie and write notes across my photo. I had to turn to Google twice to figure out how to add filters and make a video. Next I needed a fellow, uh, snapper, err, chatter, um, friend to send all my pictures.
I texted my 30-something sister:
Me: Download Snapchat!
Sister: I have Snapchat! No idea how to use it. Seems hard.
Me: I’m on, too.
I took a screenshot of myself using Snapchat’s distorted lens and wrote across my face “WTF Now?” before texting it to her.
Sister: Funny. Defeats the purpose of the app if you’re texting it to me.
Me: Excellent point. Go add me as a friend so I can send you something spontaneously.
My sister presumably opened the app and tried to figure out how to use it. Twenty minutes later I received my first Snapchat picture: my sister looking like a mouse. I was hooked.
Snapchat apparently found me having one friend (who happened to be related) distressing and asked if I wanted them to find more friends for me. Sure Snapchat, that sounds lovely.
Snapchat searched my 522 contacts and reported back that a mere 27 of those people were Snapchat users. Eight of those were my teenage babysitters. Clearly my contacts are in the “slowly growing” age demographic of users. Luckily I was able to find a nice selection of celebrities to follow to keep me amused.
Joining Snapchat, in addition to being a total time-suck, has given me an unexpected perspective on patience. No stranger to computers, tablets, or smartphones I hadn’t expected an app would require more than intuition to use.
As I get older I'll have to work harder at understanding technology. I now am trying to be more understanding when my mom calls again asking how to work Apple TV. I will try to practice patience behind the old lady at the grocery store who is attempting self-checkout.
Twelve days of vanishing photos and videos later I still can’t easily navigate my way around the app. There is more to Snapchat than I’ve discovered and many questions to be answered. For instance, what do the emojis next to people’s names signify? I wrote a note on a Post-It reminding myself to ask my teenage babysitter.