This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands
If the 1990s were known for one thing, it was for all the dads walking around recording every single thing that happened on their camcorders. They zoomed in on our first steps – arguably pretty relevant material – but after the newness of us moving around on two legs wore off, dads everywhere just recorded countless hours of family holidays, school plays, visits to nan and landscapes. Hours and hours of material no living soul will ever watch again. If the 2010s will be known for one thing, it's for all the youngsters documenting everything on Snapchat – from their daily morning turd to their own wedding. Hours and hours of material that'll be deleted in 24 hours, anyway. The more things change, the more things stay the same. We are all camcorder dads now.
Now that Snapchat is no longer just a domain for teens, since parents, aunts and uncles are foraying into this new world to ruin it for everyone else, let's take a moment to review the kind of people you're probably following on Snapchat right now.
The reality show hopeful
This friend sees Snapchat as a cheap and low maintenance way to produce a reality show about herself. She assesses every aspect of her life while talking to her phone camera. In bed, on her couch or walking to work – she's there to tell you what she's doing and how she's feeling about it. You can't be too hard on her – the modern broadcast media landscape is harsh and unforgiving. The only people surviving are hardened reality show stars – orange-skinned, acrylic-nailed and always ready to discuss some inane drama they've created in the form of a talking head.
In that landscape, it can be hard to remember that if you have the time to document and analyse your life so thoroughly, it's very likely you hardly have any life to speak of. When this girl isn't broadcasting on Snapchat, there's… nothing. Self-documentation is her only form of living. If she's not filming it, it's literally not happening. Give her a break – if she didn't have Snapchat, she'd be in some special building for people who've suffered irreparable existential crises.
The guy who sends you private Snaps because that's what he thinks Snapchat is
Receiving a private Snap can light up one's day. An uplifting in-joke you share with a friend, a bared nipple with a smiley face drawn on it for your eyes only – it can be truly delightful when it's done well. When the notification lights up on your screen, everything else around you starts lighting up with it. A message from your housemate Becky's older brother; for you personally? What on earth could it be? What on earth could it mean? Did something remind him of you? Does he want to get closer to you? He was laughing unnecessarily hard at your jokes that one time you spoke to him, you suddenly remember. A cold but agreeable shiver swiftly runs through you. You don't like him – not in that way, he's perfectly nice but a bit bland. Anyway, it's fun to be acknowledged. You clear your throat and open the app and feel a strange, light sensation in your stomach – you're not nervous, why would you be nervous?
Alas. It's a blurry photo of some kind of stew your housemate Becky's older brother is making. He hasn't figured out what 'My Story' means yet, and just ticks the boxes next to the names of everyone in his list. He's exactly as boring and bland as you suspected that night you spoke to him briefly. You should really learn to trust your instincts more.
There's an age old racist internet meme saying that no matter how good you are at something, there's always an Asian kid better than you. What is a universal truth, is that however good you are at Snapchat, the teens will always be better at it than you are. All the teens. Just – all of them. Always. Never try to out-Snap the teens – you will fail and look old and pathetic while doing so. Just do your own thing and hold on to the knowledge that you have the right to vote, can have sex without being worried that your parents will walk in and never have to sit in a classroom to solve one-step linear inequalities ever again.
The girl on a cross trainer who loves the dog filter a lot
Another universal truth is that you'll always follow a fit girl who adheres to the following daily process: 1) she Snaps the screen on her cross trainer showing the miles she's made, accompanied by the words "work work work work work work" and 2) she Snaps a selfie with that one dog filter, which she thinks makes her look cute and funny. It does of course – that damn dog filter makes everyone look cute and funny – but it is a cuteness of the lowest and most basic form.
This girl lives her life in the queue at Whole Foods, just thinkin' about yoghurt. This girl watched every episode of Drag Race but doesn't understand it. She is not our people. Do not be fooled by her canine cuteness.
ThE guy who's just trying to make sense of it all
People who just discovered Snapchat are the best people to follow. This guy will use the dog filter about as often as cross trainer girl but while the latter should know better, the former is just endearingly wondering what kind of fucking sorcery this is.
He laugh-cries while face swapping – which ruins the face swap but makes the snap all the better – and tries out every filter with the same passion. Let his unbridled wonder and pure joy about this weird app warm your cold, arid heart. Especially if this person is over 40, because there's nothing cuter than olds in a state of complete bafflement over new technology.
The guy who sees his snaps as the kickoff for a career in comedy
The beauty of Snapchat is that it's a spontaneous, unconstrained medium but this guy's efforts make the whole thing seem forced and scripted. He'll put a fitting song under every video he makes – the timing so perfect that it must have taken hours to get exactly right. He talks to himself in the camera with a weird voice and has actual running gags he keeps coming back to – for the fans.
Even though he works in IT, he's always dreamt of a career in comedy, and he sees his dedication to keep posting funny jokes on Snapchat as a last step to getting a legitimate stand-up gig. He's probably right – don't be too happy we've reached the end of the era where every mildly funny Twitter account was turned into a book or failed TV-show; Snapchat users are next.
The unpretentious enthusiast
A short video of her housemate cutting a cucumber with an enormous eggplant emoji somewhere in the image. The entrance of a building in close-up. A blurry walk through a supermarket in high speed.
This girl can bring you on the brink of existential crisis with a few simple videos a day. They're all so devoid of any meaning or pretence that you can't help but wonder: "What am I looking for?" ;"Do I really need purpose and meaning in the Snaps I see?"; "Who am I to judge someone on whether or not what they do means anything?"; "Who am I?"; "Who am I?"
The girl who wants you to know she's seeing a relevant band
This girl's snaps are an endless stream of pics and videos taken in a former leather factory turned venue/microbrewery, which exclusively hosts bands with names that consist of more than four words. You'll know she's at a festival when she's sharing video after video of what looks like a faraway light at the end of a tunnel but it turns out to be a presumably extremely relevant artist on a stage in a tent. She'll make sure you know which relevant artist she's seeing exactly with and effective "FLORENCE AND THE MACHINEEEE [heart emoji]" or "JAMIE WOOOOONNN!! [music notes emoji]".
The girl using Snapchat as a mirror
This user mostly uses Snapchat to fix their hair or check if their newly applied lipstick is still where it should be – which, if the case, is swiftly recorded, complimented with an angel filter or the current speed filter to give it some added value. It's then added to her story, and the world can sigh with relief that Samantha still looks breathtaking.
It's lazy, yes, but also practical. Looking fuckable means you don't really need any other qualities to be entertaining, so why waste time trying to think of a funny-haha-snapchat joke that'll be lost and forgotten in a couple of hours? The time Samantha saves with not having to think about what to Snap, she can do something real, something that matters, something you and your shit face haven't been able to do for a very long time. Like really connecting to the people around you.
The early adopter
The early adopter is the guy who's always the first to break in a new filter. It remains a mystery why he's always the first – maybe he's refreshing all day, or maybe he just gets them in advance because he knows someone. He seems like the kind of person who would somehow pay for a free app like Snapchat, just to be able to say he has a premium account. It's pathetic but it's also very handy: you'd have never flipped past that dog filter if you hadn't found out there are new ones, thanks to him.
The guy making the most of the fact that the time his Snaps remain in this world is finite
This person can be summarised with this one Snap he regularly shares: a video of a shit he just took. It's there, it'll be gone soon. So why not film your turd? That video is his essence, and might be the essence of Snapchat in general – but it's too early to tell.
The inoffensive basic
This user is closely related to the unpretentious one, but there's a world of difference. This guy means to entertain his followers, but he just doesn't have much to work with. He's having a homemade lentil salad on a beautiful day in the park with his mates, he's struggling to move a heavy sofa he bought online from some lady from her flat to his own, his colleague spilled coffee on her lap and he's live snapping her attempts to clean herself up. It's his life, it's fine. It's not a riveting watch, it's not a terribly boring one either. It's fine. He's the lentil salad of Snapchat users. It's just – it's just fine.
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