Snapchat and the Ghost of Communication

When I began inviting friends to join me on Snapchat a few weeks ago, most of them had no idea what I was talking about. Despite the fact that almost every teenager I talk to has a Snapchat account, a good portion of the adults I know don’t know what it is. (The only exceptions were those in education. Invariably, my teacher friends already had accounts.) So the first reaction I got to Snapchat invitations was mostly “What is that?” The second most frequent response I got was “Wait… isn’t that the thing teenagers use to… you know… send pictures of… themselves?” (Most of my friends do not yet know that the word “sexting” is a new word in the jargon.)

I admit that I got on Snapchat because our editor-in-chief, Richard Clark, told me to check it out. I’m glad he did. I haven’t had so much fun with social media since… well, I’m not sure that I’ve ever had so much fun with social media. I immediately began concocting skits, witty sayings, funny faces, and goofy drawn pictures for all my friends to enjoy. Some of my friends were amused. Others promptly unfollowed me because I was “blowing up” their Snapchat inbox. I couldn’t help myself. I was having too much fun with it.

It’s no coincidence that Snapchat’s icon is a little dancing ghost. It wasn’t long before I began to feel a deep sadness that all my Snapchats were vanishing into the ether after a mere ten seconds of playtime. On Snapchat, you get to look at messages once and then they’re gone. They’re not like an email you can save, a tweet that stays out there forever, or a Vine loop you can laugh at again and again. They’re gone, like a ghost. The countdown begins the moment you begin watching it. Nothing can stop it. My little skit. My funny impression. My lamenting the broken coffee maker… all gone in ten seconds. I wanted these things to be permanent. They were comedy gold! (At least in my own estimation.) Occasionally, my Snapchat buddies would send me something hilarious as well, but once it was gone, I couldn’t share it with my wife or other non-Snapchatting pals. Those witty little moments were lost forever, and I hated that at first.

This disappearing act made me reflect on the nature of the conversations that we have in everyday life. My co-pastor and good friend Drew Dixon just took a job with LifeWay Christian Resources as a writer. It’s a great opportunity and I’m proud of, and for, him. Every day when he walked in the office, I would yell, “GOOD MORNING DREW!” Or I’d sing his name, “Droohhooohooo!!” Or I’d say, “What’s up, Drewcifer?!” He put up with that for five years.

Our morning greeting rituals are over now. Lost in time. Our doorway chats are gone as well. Most of our conversations will fade from memory. Many of them already have, I’m sure. It saddens me that those things are lost, and it grieves me that memories fade. I want to hang on to them, but I know that everything in life begins to fade the moment the moment is over.

I’m still sending out goofy Snapchats to my friends, but my focus has changed. I no longer care that my little jokes or greetings will be gone in ten seconds. Now, I simply want to bring a little happiness into the moment. I hope that when my friends see that little dancing ghost and then see my name pop up, they smile and wonder what I might have sent them. Friendships and love linger on even after particular memories fade away. We build relationships just a little bit every day, even if it is only ten seconds at a time.

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.


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