Earlyish on the morning of February 5, 2016
I looked out my bedroom window and was less than thrilled to find a couple inches of snow and the promise of much more falling from the sky. Today was the day I had planned to make my mark in the Snapchat Hall of Fame, and I needed optimal conditions; I needed blue skies and dry pavement. How was I supposed to please the Snapchat deity with my offerings if I had snot running down my face?
Against all odds, I strapped on my boots and set out on my mission in Snapchat's name Amen.
Admittedly, it took me a little time to warm up to Snapchat when it was first "a thing." Even after the app proved itself to be more than just a nudeswap, I was apprehensive. The content disappears? After a day? I saw little point in that.
It should be mentioned that today, in my seventh year of owning a smartphone, I had an app idea that is essentially Venmo, but instead of money it’s erotic haikus. For a 28-year-old working at an internet company, I am alarmingly inept.
That’s why, when friends were telling me to get on Snapchat, my first instinct was I don’t think so. Not for me. It’s too fickle. If I want to make some memories using an app, I want to keep them forever in that app. Snapchat's philosophy preaches the opposite, and I’m not into it. Let the teens have it, the savages.
You’ll notice from my implication earlier that I eventually did warm up to Snapchat, so let’s get to it. I started simple, sending quick, unadorned images to close friends. “Byron will sure get a kick out of this,” I’d say, snapping a picture of a semi-rare bird in Prospect Park like some sort of dad.
At some point, a friend took pity on me and made me sit down to learn about Snap Stories. I didn’t even know that you could swipe right from the camera screen. It was a whole new world, a world in which you could drop a few videos, and people would choose whether or not they wanted to see what you did that day. I felt powerful. I loved the idea of publishing a Story and then offering the option to people to browse it like a book on a shelf instead of force-feeding it into their faces via a feed or push notification.
When the curated Stories started popping up, I was intrigued: Kentucky Derby, Fashion Week, Dubai — a few minutes of snaps would be curated from the large pool of snaps contributed to each Story. All of the sudden I was seeing a unique perspective of events and places that I’d never have the opportunity to see otherwise. I was seeing a glimpse of life in Israel that was not contrived or selling me something. It felt very real, and very special. So, naturally, I made it my goal to get on my own city’s Story, to be part of someone else’s immersive guide to an alternate life.
This is my journey to being featured on New York City’s Snap Story.
It’s hard, you guys.
I tried to understand what the curators at Snapchat were looking for. I got in touch with Mother Snapchat herself, and she very politely told me that I was going to have to figure this one out on my own. Apparently a five-dollar bribe is not on their list of ways to get on the NYC Snap Story, so I crossed that one off the list.
I studied the Story. Every day, I would watch and notice trends. I thought to myself, I can do this. I can say a fact about a monument, and I have roof access. I set out one snowy morning with my phone, a flaky croissant, and a dream. I had separated the Story trends out into categories, and my strategy was to hit them all at least once, and hit them hard.
1. Exercising at the crack-ass of dawn
More often than not, the first snap of the morning will be a selfie video of a jogger at sunrise telling you to be your best self. You hate this person, since you’re likely watching her while you’re horizontal, elbow-deep in a bag of reduced-fat Cape Cod potato chips. I’m not in the business of accumulating haters, but I have a goal, and I also have a stubborn nature that will justify the unspeakable things I’ll do to accomplish that goal.
2. Saying good morning to New York
Next up is perhaps the most recognizable feature of the NYC Story: people saying good morning to New York as if she’s a character in their biopic, greeting her and flattering her, saying, "Please don’t let me encounter human feces during my commute today."
3. Giving a weather report
The weather report always consists of a local New Yorker, born and bred, telling you straight up what you can expect to see sky-wise when you walk out of your windowless shoebox apartment. None of that NY1 weatherman rhetoric. No sugarcoating, no green screen. Absolutely no puns. Just truth.
4. Saying facts about New York City monuments
This is my favorite part. The facts about monuments and landmarks. Fun facts, educational facts, helpful facts — sometimes all of those facts are one fact. It was too cold to look up actual facts on my phone, so I may have fudged them a bit. The point is, you’re getting educated.
5. Witnessing an incident
The city is an exciting place! Things are happening all the time! Fire. Brown steam billowing from a manhole. A wrecking ball making room for a new luxury apartment complex. Luckily, I stumbled across one such incident. Sure, I may have been documenting something tragic — I’ll never know for sure — but I’ll live with that guilt if it means riding the snap train straight to content town.
6. Being on top of a building
Being on top of a building proves two things: that you are in good cardiovascular health, and that you will risk anything to maintain your luxurious lifestyle. Naturally, it is a staple of the New York Snap Story.
7. Sharing NYC Pro Tip Life Hacks
Real New Yorkers know the secrets of the city and have obtained them by (1) living there for a while, and (2) paying attention. I’ve just entered my sixth year of living in NYC, so I think I’m qualified. I was certain this one would change lives.
8. Saying things like “This is so New York” or “Classic New York” or “Only in New York"
New York is its own person, and, like any person, it has distinct personality traits. Try to make a New York bagel in Nebraska, and you’ll understand. Some things just can’t be replicated. I was lucky enough to encounter two separate Genuine New York Moments.
Sports are all over the Story! This one might be the most consistent. Nets, Jets, Mets... It seems like we’re always at the peak of a season. Funny enough, I was not able to find a professional sports game at 11 a.m. on a Friday, but I was able to salvage the sentiment with some clever emoji work.
10. Sighting celebrities
Another surefire way to get on the Story is to get a good shot of any sort of celebrity. Doesn’t matter who it is — if they’ve been on a screen, they’ll be in the Story. I was positive I had used up all my luck so far in this journey, but wouldn’t you fucking know it: a miracle.
11. Experiencing something cultural
One of the incredible things about New York City is that it is impossible to be bored. At any given moment there’s something for you to experience. Museums, parks, theater — it’s all within your reach. I realized that I was very close to the Whitney Museum of Art and knew that it was the perfect fit for my cultural awakening.
What I didn’t realize was that it cost 22 dollars to look at the art. Do I look like I have 22 dollars to drop on art-looking? I ate Kraft mac 'n' cheese four nights in a row last week.
12. Having an incredible view at a concert
It’s not quite enough just to be at a concert; you must have a unique perspective. Did Marcus Mumford give you sexy eyes while power-strumming? Did Beyoncé flip her hair into your mouth and/or eyes? Short of that, you’ve got no chance. Anyway, here’s me doing karaoke:
Not even close to my proudest moment.
13. Saying good night to New York
It’s the classic sign-off. Say good night to your sweet baby, kiss her on the cheek. Until tomorrow, gorgeous. I don’t even care that I spend 2 thousand extra dollars a year in taxes simply for the privilege of living in you. You deserve it.
In the end, friends, I failed. I spent the next day compulsively checking my Story view count (which I believe is the only way you can actually know if you’ve been selected). In other words, if I suddenly had 638,988 views on a snap that typically taps out at around 11 views, I’d know.
It didn’t happen. I stomped all around the goddamn city in high winds and fat flakes...for nothing. Was I at least able to learn something from this? Was I able to take a nugget of wisdom from this failure, and use it to WIN MORE, as inexplicable Snapchat master DJ Khaled would say?
No. I learned nothing.
Follow your dreams, children. Follow them straight to hell.