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Confessions of a Snapchat dad: sorry, us old folks are here to stay

Watcha' kids up to?

I'm a thirty-something father of two, so even though I signed up for Snapchat a few years back, I didn't spend much time using the app. I struggled to understand it, didn't see many friends engaging with what I posted there, and more or less resigned myself to the fact that I was too old to get something out of a service that was most popular with people half my age. And then, about six months ago, that all changed.

Snapchat actually became part of my life not as a messaging service, but as a treat for my kids. If I was waiting in line at the grocery store with a cranky toddler on the verge of tears, I would whip out my phone and fire up Snapchat. My sons are too young to grasp most mobile games, but they love seeing themselves with a funny filter on their face.

I got into Snapchat by accident

I never sent anyone those snaps, but I saved a few as screenshots. Those eventually popped up on my Apple TV, where I have my screen saver set to shuffle through my iCloud camera roll. My wife saw them there and got a laugh. I started sending them to her as iMessages, and eventually she wanted to play the same game with our sons and downloaded the app herself.

My wife was the one who started sending snaps on the regular. No one had ever interacted with me on Snapchat, so it was eye opening to finally get a taste of what people liked about it: the humor, spontaneity, and flirtation made possible by its editing tools and ephemeral nature.

Oldz are apparently flocking to Snapchat

Apparently I'm not the only old fogey who has gotten into Snapchat lately. Talking heads on cable news are earnestly interviewing certified millennials, like my colleague Kwame Opam, about the perils posed to Snapchat's business by this influx of moms and dads onto teens sexting service of choice. Yup, I thought, we're here. Sorry to spoil the party.

snap dad 2

After a few weeks I was spending more time interacting with my wife on Snapchat than iMessage or Facebook Messenger, the two platforms we had relied on in the past. As it became my primary platform, I found myself occasionally filled with anxiety about whether I should use Snapchat or my default camera. With Snapchat the images and videos it captured were fairly low-res and I often wished, a day or two later, that they hadn't disappeared. With my camera, I couldn't later upload to Snapchat.

Yesterday, Snapchat announced a new feature that addresses this pain point and seems to solidify its inevitable evolution into a more mature mobile app. It's called "Memories," and it gives Snapchat a camera roll where you can easily save images and video, organize them into collections, and search through your library. Great! All the fun of Snapchat, none of the ephemeral compromise.

Snapchat put out a promotional video to explain its new service. A young woman and her boyfriend are having dinner with her parents. She snaps a photo of them using the app, because for people her age, Snapchat is THE camera. The she flips into memories to show them the couple's recent vacation to Hawaii. She uses Snapchat's nifty new search function, up pops Hawaii, and voilà, her parents are happily clicking through her story. Of course, this being vacation Snaps from a hot young couple, things get a little TOO sexy. Everyone exchanges embarrassed looks. Luckily Memories has a special section, "For Your Eyes Only," where you can hide your risqué snaps behind a password.

I'm not looking forward to dealing with my teenagers sexting habits, but hey, the joke's on them. In whatever augmented reality version of Snapchat my kids grow up with, I'll already be there. I'm sure it will be more embarrassing for them than it will be for me.