My dad, for all his smarts and interests, isn't what I'd call an early adopter. It wasn't until I went to college that he finally gave in to buying a larger, flat-screen TV, getting rid of the small, boxy CRT I grew up with (you know, the one with the VHS player still included). He still isn't, and will likely never be, on Facebook or Instagram. And his voicemails are more businesslike in nature than they are conversational: Every message begins with him stating his full name followed by the time and date of the call. But if there’s one area where he really excels, it’s texting: He’s witty, hilarious, and faster to respond than any of my friends. If we started to grow apart when I left home for college (I’m notoriously bad at answering calls and checking voicemails), texting brought us closer. Given my dad’s texting prowess, I decided to use a pre-Father’s Day weekend visit to teach him something new: Snapchat. I’m a frequent snapper, and snapping has become a more regular form of communication with most of my friends than texting. It seemed only natural to want to snap with dad, too. (Plus, the thought of getting him to “wear” flower crowns and look like an alien was appealing, to say the least.) As evidenced by his lack of Facebook and Instagram, my dad isn’t into social networks, so I knew getting him on Snapchat would be a challenge. I decided to warm him up by emphasizing that it would be a way for him to see more pictures of where I go and what I do. I was immediately met with resistance. “What’s wrong with the telephone and text messaging?” he asked. “This is different,” I said. “It’s all visual!” “I don’t need another app,” he countered. “Why do I want this thing? I’m not doing some social network shit.” “Because it’s fun!” I said. “Come on, at least let me show it to you.” He gave in and I downloaded the app. My dad now had Snapchat on his phone! It was the beginning of a new era. After I dealt with the basics (username, email confirmation, and so on), it was time for the teaching to begin. He wasn’t excited; I was thrilled. “Okay,” I said. “So you can take a picture of something you’re seeing, or flip the camera around by pressing this, and take a picture of yourself. And you can write something on it!” He was completely unimpressed. It was time to bring in the big guns: the filters.
“Here’s where it gets really fun,” I said. “You can press on your face and then you have all these cool filters! So, I can make my face look stupid and send it to you.” “This is stupid,” he said. “It’s fun,” I answered. I kept going, scrolling through the filters and putting the phone in front of him, so he was the one with the silly faces. Finally, he began to soften. I put a frowning face on him and he chuckled (“What’s it doing?”). I put dog ears on both of us and he laughed, the same kind of wonderful laugh that comes out when he watches romantic comedies of the Sandra Bullock variety. We played for about five more minutes, me taking snaps and sending them to my phone so he could see how they’d appear, and him continuing to protest, “This is stupid,” but laughing, nonetheless. At the end of our tutorial, I tried to add people from his address book, but he put his foot down. “No, no,” dad said. “I’m only doing this with you. That’s it.” I didn’t protest. Whether he said this because he wanted it to be our special thing or because he didn’t want to deal with communicating with other people this way, it didn’t matter. It’s now been three days since our tutorial. I haven’t yet received a snap from my dad since I left home (“I can’t do that at work, Madeline!”), but he has been looking at the ones I’ve sent him. And while he wasn’t thrilled to discover that they disappear after 10 seconds, he’s at least enjoying them in his own special, dad way. For now, that’s enough to make me snap-happy.