On Friday morning, I woke up to realize I had lost a 159-day long Snapchat streak with a close friend of mine.
I don’t want to be dramatic, but it was as if a part of me had died while I was sleeping.
Upon making this gruesome discovery, I was overcome by a rush of emotions: anger, disbelief, disappointment, and sadness.
My friend and I messaged back and forth, arguing over who was to blame for the disappearance of our streak, which we had begun in early March. He claims it was me who had neglected to snap him back. If he’s right, I’ll carry that regret with me for the rest of my life.
This wasn’t the first time we’d lost a streak, mind you. A few weeks before this one began, we had lost another than was in the 100-day range. But this most recent streak might actually be the last. That’s because after a few hours went by and I settled down to write this, I was no longer annoyed or upset. Instead, I was relieved.
Snapchat streaks cause nothing but trouble
I don’t remember when Snapchat introduced the streak — a counter next to your most popular contacts that shows how many consecutive days you’ve exchanged snaps — but I remember being instantly hooked.
Suddenly, I didn’t need to be doing something fun or noteworthy to send a snap to my friends. We were growing our streaks and, by extension, our friendships, just by using the app.
Snapchat encourages streak-building by putting special emojis next to your most-snapped contacts. If you have the determination to reach a 100-day streak, you’re rewarded with a “100” emoji next to that contact’s name.
But for me, streaks quickly went from a fun, novelty feature of the app, to one that caused me stress and anxiety (relatively speaking). Streaks became what separated my “real” friends from the rest of my contacts on the app. I had to maintain snap streaks not because my friends or I wanted to, but because letting it disappear would see that physical quantification of our friendship fall back down to zero.
This tweet sums up what it feels like when you lose a long streak:
When one of your friends let’s a Snapchat streak end: pic.twitter.com/bIf5EyuN55
— Patrick Donovan (@PatrickSD10) June 21, 2017
Streaks defeat the purpose of Snapchat
Snapchat streaks are rarely organic. They may naturally get to 10 or 15 days without any effort, but once you realize you have an active streak, you feel compelled to keep it going.
And that’s point. Snapchat wants users to feel compelled to return to the app over and over again for, say, 159 straight days.
But using Snapchat for the sake of keeping a streak alive sucks the joy out of what is otherwise a fun app. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten snaps from my friends that are simply a photo of a wall or the ceiling with the word “Streak” written on them.
A quick search on Twitter shows that this is a widespread phenomenon.
when someone sends you a snap saying “streak” pic.twitter.com/d1giGzUIJt
— Ken (@Kndrck_) August 8, 2017
If u snap me once a day just to say “streak” don’t snap me
— 美容 (@bratton_cami) August 10, 2017
if you’re just sending me one snap a day and its a blank snap to keep a streak going Im obviously going to deliberately lose the streak 🙃🖕🏽
— Kim O’Neill (@Kimoneill97_1) August 2, 2017
To make matters worse, if you do decide to end a streak, an hourglass icon will pop up next to it, informing you of its impending doom. It’s anxiety inducing, especially when all it takes to make it go away is sending a single snap.
And though keeping my streaks alive has been bringing me back to Snapchat day after day, it has also been driving me away from it. I no longer look at my friends’ stories, nor do I often use the face-changing lenses or location-marking geofilters. In fact, I don’t use Snapchat much at all anymore. I’ve grown to resent the app and the way streaks have made me feel compelled to use it.
Moving forward with my life
I’ve completed the five stages of grief for my 159-day snap streak: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I even apologized to my friend. With our streak gone, I don’t feel resentful of having to snap my friend every day. Instead, we talk when we actually have something to say.
That said, I’m still totally hooked to Snapchat — I even have another, longer streak going with a different friend. Our streak is at 289 days and counting.