I’m 29 years old, and I’ve been on Snapchat for about a year now. I post fairly often (usually on my Story), and I get a decent amount of engagement from my friends. Quite honestly, up until Thanksgiving, I thought I was pretty good at Snapchat.
Then I watched my little sister on Snapchat.
This is Brooke.
She’s my 13-year-old sister, and she’s the most prolific Snapchat user I’ve ever seen.
We live in different states, so I rarely get a chance to hang out with her. That’s what made Thanksgiving so eye-opening. I would watch in awe as she flipped through her snaps, opening and responding to each one in less than a second with a quick selfie face. She answered all 40 of her friends’ snaps in under a minute.
How was this even possible? Is she a freak of nature, or is this just how things are done when you’re young? I had to find out what I was missing. What do these “teens” know that I don’t?
I decided to investigate further…
I was in.
With Brooke and Elsbitch on my side, there was no way I could fail. Still, if my goal was to snap like the teens, I needed to blend in. I had to assimilate to teen culture, so I reached out to Brooke to help reshape my image.
Right off the bat, I could see that my journey as Bitchamin was going to be a difficult one. Brooke and Elsbitch were very advanced doodlers. Just look at this collage she sent me:
PART 1: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TEEN
To get started, I wanted to understand what Brooke’s Snapchat experience was like on a day-to-day level, so I asked her some questions:
ME: How long have you had Snapchat?
BROOKE: My new account? About a month and a half.
ME: New account?
BROOKE: Yeah, I didn’t like my old name, so I made a new account.
ME: So you lost all your friends…?
BROOKE: Not really. I used to have about 215 and now I’m at around 180 or 190.
ME: In a month and a half??
BROOKE: Yeah, my score is already over 103,000.
For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), your Snapchat score can be found beneath your barcode on your account page. The score is determined by how many snaps you send and receive as well as how often you post and watch Stories.
For context on how big Brooke’s number is, here is my score after about a year of moderate usage:
I told Brooke what my score was:
BROOKE: That’s it?? OMG that was like my first day.
I continued my line of questioning:
ME: Tell me what your day is like on Snapchat.
BROOKE: When I wake up, I have about 40 snaps from friends. I just roll through and respond to them.
ME: How do you respond? Like, “haha good one, Elsbitch”?
BROOKE: No conversations...it’s mostly selfies. Depending on the person, the selfie changes. Like, if it’s your best friend, you make a gross face, but if it’s someone you like or don’t know very well, it’s more regular.
ME: I’ve seen how fast you do these responses… How are you able to take in all that information so quickly?
BROOKE: I don’t really see what they send. I tap through so fast. It’s rapid fire.
I’m mesmerized. What’s even the point of sending snaps to each other if you don’t look at them? Am I crazy? That seems so unnecessary. Still, this is adult-brain talking. If I wanted to be one of the teens, I needed to just accept it and press on.
ME: What does Dad say when he sees you doing this?
BROOKE: Parents don’t understand. It’s about being there in the moment. Capturing that with your friends or with your expression. One of the biggest fights kids have with their parents is about data usage.
ME: Really? Because you’re using too much?
BROOKE: Yeah. This one girl I know uses 60 gigabytes every month.
ME: 60 GIGS?!?!? Is that for real??
BROOKE: Yeah. [laughs]
ME: Wow. OK, what else do you do during the day?
BROOKE: I look at the new filters. Those are VERY big. I’ve only bought about three of them, but there are new ones, like, every day.
ME: How often are you on Snapchat?
BROOKE: On a day without school? There’s not a time when I’m not on it. I do it while I watch Netflix, I do it at dinner, and I do it when people around me are being awkward. That app is my life.
PART 2: HOW TO SNAPCHAT LIKE A BOSS
I asked Brooke and Elsbitch for some rules on how everyone should Snapchat.
ELSBITCH: Streaks are the MOST important thing on Snapchat. Not just one streak — you need to have multiple.
I stopped her right there.
ME: What is a streak?
BROOKE: You don’t know what a streak is? It’s when you send a snap to one of your friends on consecutive days. You have to make sure to respond every day with a snap or you break the streak.
ME: OK. Neat.
BROOKE: Don’t Snapchat boys that you like first — wait until they Snapchat you.
ELSBITCH: You need to have more than 150 views on your Story.
I stopped them again.
ME: Wait. Really? I have like 30.
BROOKE: OMG!! 30?? Only NARPs have less than 150.
ME: What the hell is a NARP?
BROOKE: Nonathletic Regular Person. NARP.
ME: Ah. So…I’m basic?
They continued again.
ELSBITCH: Don’t overload your Story. Nobody wants to sit and watch five videos. One video MAX.
BROOKE: If you’re weird, people will judge you. People don’t care as much as you do in that moment. Also, EVERYONE looks at Cosmo on Discover. If it’s funny, they share it.
ELSBITCH: Don’t reply to weird people. You could reply once, but definitely don’t get a streak.
BROOKE: Get trophies. It’s not a huge deal, but friends like to compare trophies.
ELSBITCH: Take a selfie on your friends’ Snapchats and add your handle in the text to request more friends. Still, don’t be desperate for followers.
At this moment, Brooke suddenly stops paying attention to the conversation and looks at her phone. After a few seconds, she looks up and says, “See? Look. I already have 20 new Snapchats.”
She had just cleared them out 10 minutes before this moment. Ten. Fucking. Minutes.
ME: So if I follow all those rules, I’ll be Snapchatting like a boss?
ELSBITCH: Be a boss to snap like a boss.
Here's one of my snaps.
(I'm trying so hard, you guys.)
PART 3: SNAPCHAT TRICKS & TIPS
ME: Tell me some things that I don’t know about Snapchat.
BROOKE: If you need more space with text, just open notes, press enter a bunch, and copy and paste that into your text box.
ELSBITCH: This one is pretty basic, but if you drag your finger down from the color palette, you can find black. If you drag your finger to the top left of the screen, you can find white.
BROOKE: You can make your own geo filter. Go on Snapchat’s website, create one, and submit it. They still need to approve it, but yeah.
ELSBITCH: Oh! You can customize your Snapchat emojis. Just go into Settings > Manage > Friend Emojis. You can change everything there.
BROOKE: If you want to take a screenshot without your friend knowing, turn on airplane mode, take the screenshot, log out of the app immediately, turn off airplane mode, and then load the app back up.
MIND = BLOWN.
PART 4: LEARNINGS FROM BROOKE & ELSBITCH
1) Teens don’t really watch much TV anymore. They’re on Netflix, and they like Grey’s Anatomy.
2) Brooke and Elsbitch said Triller is another popular app. So are VSCO (pronounced “visco”) and Instagram (duh).
3) I just need to mention this: While I was talking to Brooke, she mentioned that she has 700 unanswered texts “just from today.”
4) Brooke is usually the first person to look at anything I post on Snapchat. I can confirm that she is on there ALL DAY.
I have so much work to do.
Teens have a lot of time for Snapchat, and it will be hard to match their voracity. This is clear to me now. Still, I’m not giving up. I’m going to put in the work to become marginally better at Snapchat than I was before. There’s a good chance this is the last time you will hear from me. Today, I leave Earth as we know it and begin my quest in the Snapchat realm. Never to return.