I have an 885-day Snapchat streak with Arya, one of my best friends. We went to school together growing up, but now I live in New York, she lives in Chicago and we only see each other once every few months. Every day then, we send at least one picture of our faces back and forth to each other. Honestly, if it weren’t for our snap streak, I’m not sure how often we’d talk.
I’m not alone either. A lot of guys keep in touch with their friends almost exclusively through Snapchat — and it’s the streak that motivates them to keep talking.
Tom Bourne, a 26-year-old from Washington, D.C., regularly talks to Shawn, a friend from camp, through Snapchat. “We got along really well while working together and even went cliff jumping into a river at camp,” Bourne says. Ever since, they’ve maintained a streak “off and on” for years. “The longest one was about 200,” says Bourne. “But we always keep in touch.”
Bourne explains that he and Shawn go back-and-forth every day for a total of about “five to 10 snaps.” “We talk about work, our lives, basically whatever is on our minds,” he explains.
Of course, being close over Snapchat — or having a long streak — doesn’t necessarily mean you talk IRL or on other platforms. In fact, Bourne thinks he may not even still have a relationship with Shawn if it weren’t for Snapchat and their streak.
To be clear, Bourne and Shawn do have actual conversations over Snapchat, too. So do Arya and I — most of the time. But many guys who have long Snapchat streaks with friends they rarely see don’t actually talk over the app. For instance, Bourne says his younger brother has “a ton” of snap streaks, most with high school friends who now live in other parts of the country. “He’ll send one snap a day to keep the streak alive. He even has a snap streak with one of his exes who he doesn’t talk to. They keep in touch via Snapchat but don’t really say anything.” These are “mass snaps” that include a picture of his face along with the word “streaks,” and go to an upwards of 10 people.
Thomas McBride, a 19-year-old college student in New York, has seven snap streaks, some of them more than 200 days long. “I go to college basically 20 minutes away from where I live,” he explains. “But I have lots of friends who are in Florida and all over the place.” In terms of what his daily snaps consist of, McBride says conversations are “sometimes” part of it, but a lot of days, “it’s just one picture to keep the thing alive” — e.g., what he’s doing at the exact moment he opens Snapchat.
Even though McBride isn’t really talking to a lot of the people he snaps, he still sees streaks as a good way to maintain relationships: “They’re all people I want to see again.”
Wouldn’t it, though, be easier to just follow each other on Instagram?
Not really, McBride says. “Snapchat maintains those relationships more intimately than just following each other on Twitter or another social network.” He does, however, add, “But it’s not the same as texting.” If anything, a lot of the people he has streaks with would find it strange if he texted them. “There are some people [I snap with that] I completely fell off with,” he explains. “It’d be weird if I messaged some of them outside of Snapchat — unless we first got into a conversation over snap.”
That’s what Hunter Williams, a 19-year-old filmmaker in New Zealand, finds so crazy about Snapchat streaks. “You’re sending these photos of yourself every day to people you don’t actually talk to,” he says.
He used to maintain streaks with more than 10 people, but he made it his New Year’s resolution to end them two years ago. “I’d been thinking for a while that I couldn’t believe I go on Snapchat every day and send a random picture to all of these people for no reason other than to get a fire emoji with a number beside it,” Williams explains.
His decision was met with considerable backlash. “People would ask, ‘Why did you end our streak?’ I had to explain to them, ‘If we’re going to chat, we might as well chat about something meaningful rather than sending a random photo every day,’” Williams says. “I found it strange that they were so invested in them.”
Count McBride among the heavily invested. To wit, tomorrow morning, he’ll wake up, open Snapchat and send a picture of what he’s watching on TV or what he’s eating for breakfast to seven guys he has active streaks with. It’s not much, but it’s definitely become a way of life.