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Tangled Web: Snapchat 101

Help! My friend can't tell the difference between group and personal Snapchat messages. 


Jess Zimmerman

Internet Culture

Posted on Sep 18, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 6:13 am CDT

Thanks to the Internet, we now have a host of new ways to offend, enrage, misinterpret, creep out, or alienate people. In Tangled Web, we field your questions about how to be a decent human online. Have a question? Ask

I only have a handful of friends on Snapchat, and most of us know each other. We all snap the same pictures to everyone in the group, pretty much. (It’s not boobs! It’s, like, funny signs and dogs.) But I recently added a friend who’s new to Snapchat, and when I add her to group snaps, she often replies in a way that suggests she thinks I’m sending pics to her individually. It’s actually really sweet, but also a little embarrassing, like watching someone try to have a conversation with an answering machine. Should I say something?

As long as she hasn’t decided that your flattering individual interest should be escalated with a nice boobsnap—which might get awkward—I think you’re fine to just keep sending her the same silly pictures you send everyone else, without giving her a seminar in the subtleties of the Snapchat interface. I mean, what’s the harm? She thinks you’re paying attention to her personally, and you don’t have to pay anyone personal attention. Everyone wins. (And on the flip side, pulling someone aside to explain that they’re not as special as they think they are sounds a little harsh if it’s not absolutely necessary.)

If she’s getting the wrong idea about your relationship because you’re sending her “private” pictures on a network that everyone knows has some especially intimate applications, that might be cause for concern. But presumably she is responding more or less in kind, sending you back a funny picture for your funny picture. So she’s not misinterpreting the whole relationship, she’s just slightly overestimating how much personal attention you’ve put into picking out a snap she might like.

If you think she’d be hurt to find out that other people have seen the same photos you sent to her (even if only for 10  seconds maximum), then yes, you should say something. If you just want to subtly alert her to the fact that she’s not alone in the room, you could try sending a few snaps whose captions reference a larger audience, using “guys” or “y’all.” (Note: do not attempt “y’all” if you are not from the South, no matter how dire you think the situation is.) But overall, I can’t see much harm in the situation as it stands. You’re both just being friendly. She’s just being friendly to you, whereas you’re being friendly to everyone. It’s a pretty good problem to have.

In fact, you should celebrate having such a good problem by sending a snap just to her now and then. Throw the poor girl a bone. But don’t, you know, throw her a bone.

Photo via Ryan Nagelmann/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 18, 2013, 12:13 pm CDT