Does Snapchat Ruin the Moment?


A few months ago, I was riding a wild-maned horse down a black sand trail in Iceland. The sun was shining, the sky blue for the first time in days.

All of a sudden, my horse bolted. As she careened and bucked, I gripped the reins and tried not to get thrown off.

When she finally was calm, I was anything but. My heart was pounding and my hands were trembling –  I even thought about calling the ride.

Despite this scare, for the rest of the ride I was itching to pull out my phone and take a snapchat. I knew it was unsafe, but I wanted to share this experience with friends.

I kept asking myself, “Why can’t I just enjoy the moment? Why am I dying to use my phone even when I know it’s dangerous?”

The danger of living retroactively

“Recording life is a poor substitute for living it.” – The Geography of Bliss

You could argue all social media kills the moment. But I don’t think there’s any form of social media that obliterates the moment as thoroughly as Snapchat.

With Snapchat, we record and share our the best moments of our lives. But by doing this, we also half-live them. Living in the moment becomes impossible when you’re filming, choosing a filter, and checking to see how many people watched your Story.

Needless to say, we should cherish our happiest moments, not watch them through a screen. As Carson said on Downton Abbey, “The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.”

Yes, you can watch your Story after the fact. But is that really the same as actually living? I would argue it’s not.

The danger of living vicariously

Similarly, watching other people’s snapchats can also be harmful. Watching so many incredible stories can make you appreciate your own life a little less.

It can cause you to wonder if your life is enough, as on Snapchat, everyone else’s lives seem much more interesting and glamorous. Because as much as Snapchat puts you behind the scenes of someone’s life, you’re still watching the highlight reel.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Overall I’m torn. Snapchat is entertaining and helps me catch up on my friends’ lives. It also gives you a window into experiences you’ll likely never have: A Dior show in Paris, a cooking class at Julia Child’s house in Provence.

From a professional standpoint, Snapchat becoming more and more valuable for bloggers, and many of my blogging friends have landed lucrative Snapchat partnerships. As Snapchat continues to build steam, I imagine brands will pay even more for Snapchat exposure.

I sometimes consider throw my hat into the Snapchat ring. But realistically, would I ever want to prioritize an app over living in the moment? I don’t think so.

So I wanted to open up the floor to you – what do you think? Do you think Snapchat kills the moment or is a fun way to catch up with friends and experience new worlds?

First photo by Sateless Suitcase.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

29 thoughts on “Does Snapchat Ruin the Moment?”

  1. Oh man, thanks for writing this.

    Two nights ago, I was at a minor league baseball game. A couple of girls came in late, sat in front of us, spent 20 minutes taking selfies and Snapchatting and looking at filters, and then got up and left before the game was over. Had they even watched the game? No, but I’m sure if I was just a Snapchat follower, I would have a different opinion entirely: “Oh cool, so-and-so went to the baseball game!”

    I enjoy following travel bloggers on Snapchat– it’s an extension of their adventures to me, and that’s why I follow their blog to begin with. It all depends why you’re doing whatever it is, I guess — if it’s for you, then don’t snap(chat?) it! But if you’re trying to maintain an audience, build a brand, and be an authority on something… I can see the merit/importance of using something like Snapchat.

    • Agreed. I definitely could understand the importance if you’re trying to “grow your brand”. But as I’m not looking to be a professional travel blogger, Snapchat for me is just overkill.

    • As social media user, I think there is a tricky balance that has to be acheived in self appreciation and an appreciation for one’s existing life, and being able to appreciate the “shareworthy moments” of another through social media.

      It is important for any social media user to know that the GRASS IS NOT GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE. People present what they want you to see, but not the entire picture which may not be as glamorous or social media “worthy”.

      In this sense I think its important to ask oneself, what is my purpose for using social media or sharing a moment that is personal, such as living in the moment to make a memory that lasts in the mind rather than on film or floating around on the internet?

      For me, I love travel, but I also love sharing my travels because others enjoy them and are inspired to travel more. However every day of every trip I make a note of what I want to share on social media, so I can truly enjoy my trip for me. most of my records are for my own, but first and foremost, enjoy the moment, because it will never come back and be confident in your own life and learn to appreciate the moment.

  2. As much as we all love social media, it does get in the way of “living.” It seems as though that with every new form of “media,” we have to join on and contribute to sharing our lives in another way. I have found that to thoroughly enjoy something, I get there, take all my pictures, post, and put my phone away. This helps me really live in the moment, and then makes me feel great when I check my phone and have tons of “Likes.”

  3. Great post that is so relevant in today’s times! Personally, I’ve not jumped on the whole Snapchat bandwagon and don’t intend to do so (maybe it’s a matter of feeling too “old” now that I’m in my 30s lol). As you said, it’s become ingrained in our heads to “capture that photo, share that story in the immediate now” instead of just sitting back and enjoying the moment. I know when I’m taking pictures at a destination, I’m often so concerned with capturing the right angle/how to best frame the image, instead of just taking in the beautiful scene before me.

    I like catching up with people the old-fashioned way-through reading and photographs. I don’t need the immediate play by play.

  4. Dear Ashley,
    It does seem at times that a person is not living the moment when
    Continually taking shots of it. Yet, my brother Sherrill and I felt a loss
    of not many pictures of our childhood. I realize you are not talking
    about that, yet I treasure almost photo I have been given or taken
    myself. It may be true that you may miss the moment, but after
    It is over and you record it you can recall the vision, the feelings, the
    emotions. Many times and remember you did this on a trip, left
    Your camera at home. Did you regret it? Other people have done
    this and I have heard comments, “I wish that I had had my camera!”
    Am I off track here? Love, Gamma

    • Hi Gamma, I agree with you. I really regret the trips in which I didn’t bring a camera/brought a disposable because I can’t look back on the memories. But Snapchat is different because it films the moment, so you’re live-streaming a video of whatever you’re seeing. I think video takes a lot more away from the moment than just a camera. Also I can’t wait to see you next week! Love, Ashley

  5. It’s so strange because I feel like Snapchat is the new Instagram, which was the new Twitter, which was the new Facebook. People say it’s great because it’s so much less filtered or ‘curated’ than Instagram, but given what you say about Snapchat partnerships I’m not so sure! I think your point about whether to share or experience goes for all social media. It’s a balance, for sure. I certainly haven’t got it right because I’m useless at social media!

    • Me too! With my blog I’ve always had a good amount of comments/traffic/subscribers, but my social media numbers have always been dismal compared to other travel bloggers. Then again, that may be because they’re inflating their numbers with purchased followers ;)

  6. It’s been really weird coming back to ‘the real world’ after being on a little island in the middle of nowhere for four years. I had heard of this Snapchat business while I was there but never thought about it again, because no one was using it where I was and I didn’t really ‘get it’. Now that I have it, I sometimes feel a sense of disappointment if I can’t whip my phone out quickly enough to get a snap, and that is a feeling I don’t like having. I can see how it would be good for a media partnership, but for general day to day stuff I think some people definitely go overboard. I see too many stories of my friends which are just snapping for the sake of posting every single thing they do all day to Snapchat, and I’m not down with that.

    • I hate that feeling too! I’m not down the play-by-play stories either – I’ve actually started unfollowing a lot of people just because my Snapchat takes so long to get through these days.

  7. There’s definitely a balance. I love seeing Snapchats when my friends are out doing adventurous things, but I also have noticed that when I use my phone during my own adventures that I don’t feel as connected to the experiences. The best feeling is actually when I was so engaged in what I was doing that I completely forgot to take photos. I hope for more of those moments!

    • I agree. I like following my friends’ stories (when they’re interesting, ha) but when I’m doing something cool, I honestly don’t feel like Snapchatting at all. I wonder if they don’t feel like it either, but push through?

  8. I first tried Snapchat when it first came out a few years ago. My friend kept sending pictures of his empty gas tank and sad face because he had to work. I thought it was the dumbest thing and I still do. I refuse to jump on the bandwagon. I agree with much of what you said. I love Instagram and I love photography, but I don’t want either to take away living in the moment. After all, we need to please ourselves before anyone else.

  9. I made a Snapchat account just to follow a few bloggers I really like, but I’ve never created my own snaps or stories. Every once in a while I feel like *should* utilize it since it’s the biggest social media thing right now, but I know I won’t enjoy it. It really feels like it takes you out of the moment and just requires more of your time & attention. I take photos of my travels for my blog, but I always give myself time to take photos AND enjoy things without the camera. I generally only post on social media when I have down time in a coffee shop or back at my hostel. If I were to start using Snapchat, I imagine it would really start to take over my time & attention. So for that reason, specifically, I don’t snap.
    That being said, the same way I know I can take photos without taking away from the experience, others may feel they can snap AND experience things fully. And a lot of bloggers snap because hey, that’s the business of blogging, whether they like it or not.
    I don’t think I’ll ever convert to a full-on snapper though (I don’t know any of the lingo but I think snapper works).

    • I have a really similar approach. Now that I work a full-time job, I am so reluctant to spend my time traveling using social media – I don’t have all year to travel like I used to!

  10. This was a much needed article in such times! Snapchat is indeed stealing you away from the present moment, especially when you’re probably viewing the moment from behind a screen. But I’m thinking that problem is half solved (not completely) by the Beme app. It’s pretty cool! It was an app created by another vlogger. It’s similar to snapchat except when you’re recording something, the screen goes black and you have to just be in the moment sort of. Have never used it myself, but I guess its more unfiltered and in a way better than Snapchat. Have you tried that?

  11. YES. I agree 100%. I see people
    recording every bite they eat, every painting in a museum, and every minute detail on a trip… and I can’t help but wonder how you can fully take every experience in with such impact that way.

    With that being said, I do have Snapchat and I use it to record my dog snoring and what not. I feel sorry for those that follow me, but I use it completely for personal reasons and rarely make use of it when traveling.

    Glad to see someone out there shares a similar opinion to mine.

  12. I do enjoy Snapchat but I do also sometimes forget about using it to share when I’m out and about – which I think is a good thing! I like seeing the “real” experiences people have, but I also love Instagram for a beautiful photograph. I think Insta has become much more curated at the same time as Snapchat’s popularity rise, so I think there is a place for both… when I remember :)

  13. Bahaha, is that picture of Amanda ‘ruining the moment’? ;) I have never gotten into snapchat, maybe because I’m a little old fashioned but I’m just not that into social media that shares every little detail of your day. It can be awesome and I enjoy seeing other people’s snaps sometimes, but I’m bad enough at pulling out my camera to snap a picture let alone take the time to film something. Plus there’s just too much pressure these days to make amazingly perfect photos and videos and I can’t be bothered! I’d much rather just live in the moment and have the memories.

    • Haha I needed a picture of someone taking a selfie with an iphone, so that’s what I came up with :). I agree about just having the memories – I feel like I have way too many ways to document my life as is.

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