Welcome to IDGAF, a new biweekly column about those parts of the popular culture that we just don’t like.
Almost 10 years ago, I killed blogs. Not my blogs; they’re still going, at least in theory. No, what I did was far more odious than that: I wrote a cover story for a local alternative weekly entitled “Blog is Dead,” in which I cautiously explained why I thought we were at Peak Personal Blog, and could only go down from there. I attributed the coming falloff to “social networking,” singling out MySpace and YouTube as herald of where things were headed. (Facebook memberships became publicly available on September 26, 2006, only a few weeks before I wrote my piece.)
The following year, Twitter hit a tipping point during South By Southwest when the amount of daily Tweets multiplied by three. By 2010, Facebook had 500 million users; that same year, blogging service Vox shut down operations. Today, blogs have essentially become websites—blogging platform WordPress is used as the backbone for perhaps thousands of media websites, including Vegas Seven. Blogs didn’t die, but they did change into something more utilitarian. “Social networking” pretty much won our hearts and minds.
I’m telling you this as a convoluted way of explaining why I don’t give a shit about Snapchat. I’ve subscribed to an ungainly number of online communities and social media services over the years, including AmericaOnline, LiveJournal, Blogger, Flickr, Friendster, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Foursquare, Gowalla, Google+, WhatsApp, diaspora*, 500px, Ello, Miitomo and Snapchat. That’s 20 services, right there—nearly one for every year I’ve been connected to the rest of the world via electronic devices.
I can’t believe I signed up for that much shit. It must’ve seemed like fun at the time. Now, the accumulated weight of all those platforms and services wears on me. I can’t think of the last time that Facebook didn’t cause me anxiety, that Twitter didn’t make me sad or that Tumblr didn’t make me wish I had a copyright lawyer on retainer.
It’s not that social media, in and of itself, is bad. I’m not about to wag my finger at you over sacrificing your personal privacy for targeted ads, or yell at Twitter for killing off newspapers with its brute pith. It’s only that I’ve been playing this social media game since 1995, and I’m fucking tired of it. Pieces and players are added every year, but the game itself doesn’t change.
Snapchat itself is kind of cute. I’m intrigued by its slightness, its impermanence—“Like postcards that die in front of you,” as writer Warren Ellis put it in a recent tweet. And, y’know, who doesn’t love swapping faces with someone, all Nicolas Cage-style? If I’d caught onto Snapchat maybe even as little as five services ago, I might have loved it. As it now stands, I’ve added Snapchat to my phone three times—always at the behest of friends who “want to send me stuff”—and I’ve removed it three times. I just don’t need to go there. I’ve been there. I’m still there, despite the insistent voice in my head telling me to cut back on my social media use, or simply give it up.
I’m not here to tell you that Snapchat is doomed. I know better than that. But I can tell you that I probably won’t get back on it, or sign up for the next five similar things that follow, unless someone figures out how to clean the signal. I want a social media service that allows me to keep in touch with my friends, keeps idiotic hate speech in its place and refreshes my mind every time I use it. I want a service that communicates warmth, ideas and genuine connection, and if Snapchat is the best we can do on that front, it might be time for me to give up on that idea and refocus that effort elsewhere. Maybe I’ll update my blogs.