Snapchat Stress – Catching up in an age of social media

coverBy Sabrina Bong — When I was a junior in high school, I received an email that said, “Your friend has invited you to connect with her on Facebook! To accept her invite, click here.”

At the time, Facebook was still an enigma, something that only a few people had joined. I balked for a while; after all, who did I need to connect with on Facebook? All of my friends were in my classes. But when senior year rolled around, I decided to give in and join the Facebook world.

Suffice to say, I am a little slow sometimes on getting with the trends. I did not get a Twitter account until my junior year of college. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I actually understood how to use it. Some people think it’s a little ironic that a Broadcast and Electronic Communication’s major would be so hesitant to join the social media crazes. I guess I saw it as my way to see how powerful the website became. Once I had gauged how useful it could be in my life, I would embrace it with open arms. But until then, I treated social media with a certain degree of wariness.

Through this school year, I have seen the benefits and the detrimental effects that social media can have. This is especially true with Snapchat.

If you do not know what Snapchat is, here is what I have learned: It is an app designed for people to send pictures, videos, and texts to a specific list of people. The sender can also choose a time limit for how long the recipients can view whatever they sent (between 1 and 10 seconds.) Once the text, video, or picture is opened, the recipient has however many seconds to view it. Then, it is deleted from Snapchat’s servers and the recipient’s device, never to be found again.

I’m sure that this app creates friendships and gives people the opportunity to share their inside jokes, as well as offer some privacy. I, however, cannot find too many redeeming qualities for this app, especially after several incidents that occurred this past week.

I had three students come to speak to me about bullying via Snapchat. One student told me that a few older students had sent him a Snapchat that told him he was worthless. One student told me about a Snapchat that showed a distorted picture of her, along with a text message that made rude comments about her weight. Another said that several people had sent her a Snapchat message saying that she should kill herself. By the time my students managed to find someone to show the message to, it had disappeared, leaving only pain and humiliation for the recipient.

When I heard this, I was disgusted. I had never imagined that people could be so hurtful to others. Here was an app created with, I’m sure, good intentions, and now it is being used to terrorize people. Bullying is infusing itself even more into our personal lives. This is no longer an issue that just occurs at school; it is now affecting students at home as well. To make it worse, students are now doing things that eliminate any trace of evidence, leaving us struggling to find out who is the one sending the messages.

My goal for the next semester is this: I hope to teach my students more about social media. I think it can be hard for my students to see the long-term effects of social media, like Facebook and Snapchat. I also hope that through this teaching, I will be able to show them how social media can promote compassion and friendship, not just drama and pain.

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