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For whatever reason (curiosity, feeling old, etc.), I recently started using Snapchat. All the young people in my life had tried and failed to explain it to me and I realized the only way to wrap my brain around it was to download the app and try it for myself.

I guess I couldn’t bear the thought that my social media expertise had come to an end.

So…I read some articles, I played around and I started creating “snap stories” while all the people in my real life laughed and ridiculed me.

“Is this going on snapchat?” my friend sneered at me while I snapped a clearly terrible picture of my dinner. (The huge eye roll with the “OH GOD” was implied.)


Still, I soldiered on and I must say, after two weeks, I really enjoy it.

On other social platforms, I’m always really careful about what I post— editing, curating, cropping, etc. so only the most aesthetically pleasing version of my life is what gets shared. Snapchat has no time for that nonsense, which I find both scary and liberating.

Since you have to post everything in real time with very limited editing options, you have no choice but to present things as they really are. There is no curation of your life’s events. No timing posts for the right amount of engagement. As a result, Snapchat shows a much more accurate version of my life than what you see on Instagram.

The photos and videos depict what I actually do throughout the day— which is not always pretty and not always with my kids. It’s like Instagram is a highlight reel of properly cropped moments and Snapchat is the ugly stepchild giving people a behind the scenes look at what really goes down. You see my mess, my kids acting super weird, the random blogger events I attend and my face talking close-up (totally absent of ideal lighting, which is probably the hardest part).

Is this interesting to people? I have no idea. But it’s easy to record and has been fun for me and the kids. I’m not trying to get them to behave for a photo shoot— I’m just recording them as they are.

I also really enjoy watching other people’s snap stories. At first it was odd to see such an intimate view of someone’s life, but now I look forward to certain people adding to their story.

To me, the most challenging part of Snapchat is that everything in your story disappears after 24 hours. My entire blog was created with the purpose of saving every memory, story, photo, and video of my kids to show to them later in life. But really— at this point, I have so many photos and videos on random hard drives that most of them will probably never ever see the light of day. Maybe snapchat is a good lesson for a memory hoarder like myself.

For those of you who are currently snapchat-clueless (it is not the most intuitive app), let me explain a few things about how it works.

12 Things a snapchat Newbie needs to know

1) You have to record within the app and post in real time.

You have to record video and take all photos within the app and post them immediately in real time, so you can’t take ten photos and then post the best one. Or record a full minute and then pick the best bit. You either post or delete.

2) You can only record 10 seconds at a time.

If your kid says something funny on Second 11, you are shit out of luck. The camera already stopped filming. But you can record another 10 seconds and it will add to your snap story like editing two pieces of video together.

3) think vertical.

Most people use snapchat vertically so if you’ve spent your life making fun of people who are dumb enough to film in portrait, this can be a tough adjustment.

4) You can add text, emoji, or draw on your picture/video.

The capabilities and character count is pretty limited, so humor must come from very abbreviated sentiments.


5) You can add filters based on location, time, temperature and mph.

Geofilters are fun location specific graphics that change depending on where you are. Or you can add things like time, temperature or speed which the app magically knows without you having to input manually. But you can only use one filter at a time, so if it’s super cold and you are going super fast, you will have to decide which is more important.


6) Have fun with hidden face filters.

The face filters are a brand new development that are really weird and fun. Especially with kids. You can add filter that make you look like you are puking rainbows or have heart eyes that pop out like a cartoon character. They look like this:

To add them, flip the screen to selfie mode and then tap your face until you see a thin white drawing map over it. Then you will see several little face options next to the record button. Swipe them left and hit record when you find the facial filter you want.

7) send individual pics and videos to select friends or post them to your “snap story”.

Whenever you add a snap, you have the option to send it to one person, a few people or to your story. Individual snaps are probably the majority of what people do on snapchat. It’s a fun way to send pictures, graphics and videos to your friends. Snap stories were introduced more recently and can be seen by everyone who follows you. They string all your snaps within the past 24 hours together chronologically.

If you watch my story at any point in the day, you’ll see something like this:

8) Don’t get too attached to your story.

Individual snaps sent to friends will delete as soon as they’ve been watched. Snaps posted to your story will remain up for 24 hours and then delete automatically.

9) if you must, You have the option to save snaps

You can save snaps to your camera roll or save your complete 24 hour story as one video, but the quality is not as good as your regular camera and the graphics end up looking a little fuzzy. As hard of a concept as this is, I don’t think snapchat is really meant to be saved. Although I did take one really good picture that I made sure to keep.


10) Check out live snaps stories based on location or a specific event

You can watch a live snap story based on your location that strings together a variety of snaps from different people, which is a really interesting way to see a cross section of stuff currently going on in your city. Beyond your local story, there are always a few more options that change daily- sometimes a story from a foreign location and sometimes a story about a relevant event. But you can’t search for things— you get what Snapchat choses to show you. Currently, there is a feed showing videos of all the flood damage taken by people in South Carolina. It’s a pretty interesting inside look that you would not get just from watching news coverage.

11) discover content on Snapchat’s partner sites

Buzzfeed, Tastemaker, Mashable, National Geographic, Comedy Central, People and a few other other big sites have a special section with Snapchat dedicated content that you can use as an overview of their daily content. It updates daily and links easily to longer form stories and videos.

12) You can follow people by entering their user name, using your address book or scanning a snap code.

I’m ilanawiles because mommyshorts was already taken. My snap code looks like this:


So now the only thing to answer is— am I the only mom on snapchat?

No, I am not. I know this because followers snap me random videos of their kids all the time. It’s becoming a fun way to really get to know some of my long-time readers.

So, if you want to really understand snapchat, follow ilanawiles there. It’s fun. And ask me any questions you have in the comments— I’ll try to answer.

On a separate note, I think it’s good to stay on top of these things so we’ll be savvy when our kids get older and want to use these platforms for themselves. Of course, by then, it will probably be a completely different platform.

Probably because everyone’s mom joined Snapchat.