Post A Snapchat Birthday?

Mom wants to be a good sport and post Happy Birthday on Snapchat.

This is a yellow birthday cake with the logo of Snapchat on the top, where the candles would normally be. The images was posted on Pinterest.
Pinterist…Sweet Sister Cakes

Dear Ms. Smartphone: When I asked my older daughter how to surprise my younger daughter for her birthday, she suggested that I make a card for her on Snapchat. I didn’t know that the girls  were using Snapchat, and now I don’t know how to make this card! What do you advise? Samantha, San Francisco

Dear Samantha: First, I assume your daughters are age 13 and older and Snapchat does not produce “cards” like Hallmark!  The intricacies to post and send make it the province of those under age 25. Put it this way, if you and I can figure out how to navigate Facebook or Instagram, we are probably not the audience Snapchat wants to attract.  That is, unless we are corporate sponsors or advertisers. 

The ‘cards’ that your daughter suggest might be “homemade” filters and stickers- upgrade options you customize on Snapchat, but for a fee. The fee is based on ‘Time’ X ‘Reach’. Sorry, calculating that is beyond DearSmartphone’s playgrade (!sp!)

But, the learning curve for making a post and having it come out as you planned could be fairly steep. That’s because the gesturing is different than in other apps, and features are hidden from plain view. But, again, that’s the point! said this Time reporter, when it first launched. New features were added to the platform this summer.


I hunch that your daughters will get a big chuckle circulating Mom’s home-made birthday Snap to their regular friends. But your photos and short videos are  “alive” for only 24 hours and then they disappear. So, unless you “pay to play” with the filters, you do not have to worry about making a permanent mistake; the content is ephemeral. 

The simplest thing may be to take a mug or video of you with other family members , add stock (no fee) stickers and filters and then post or share. Here are “educational”  videos about making a birthday greeting on Snapchat . Watch at your own risk! Maybe your older daughter and her friends will continue to make more celebratory stories with you (although I doubt it). If not, remember to close your account!

Birthday Gift…

Have you thought about the cake and an alternative birthday gift? You could give your daughter a few stock shares in Snapchat and in so doing, link her  between the virtual world and the real one.  When the stock did its Initial Public Offering back in 2018 it opened at $17.00 per share. Today (June 12) the shares are only  $20.18. So maybe your daughter, the stock, this platform, and this new reality platform will all reach maturity together!  Happy augmented birthday.

Digital Grandparents Stay Connected

Digital Grandparents: “Move Grandma so she can see me at the State Fair…”

Photo of a cute little girl on a computer  screen interacting with her Grandparents. From a longer NYT article.
The Digital Grandparent. NYT, 11/26/2008 James Estrin

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Do you think we are going to have trouble getting connecting in- person after spending so much digital time? I am the digital grandparent as I watch the kids for an hour or two online while their parents work from home. The younger kids and I play board games or “clean house” together. Then I help the older ones with an (online) entry for our Marin County Fair. But, when we finally get to see each other in person, will it be different?  Eileen, Tiburon

Dear Eileen: It’s a fine question- how will we reconnect when we are able to get together again?  I checked in with a good friend, who like you, is watching grandkids online. She says they “sneaked in” an in-person visit for Mother’s Day, and it was a joyous reunion. There was no hesitation on the part of the eighteen month old to bond with Grandma and Grandpa. More recently, this story from the WSJ, says families are developing “re-entry plans.”

Far Apart?

You mentioned that you spend time almost every day online. That is the key factor.  Time is one of the enabling things we can give online, because we can re-purpose the period we would have spent on the road or in the car. For established relationships ….putting in time is a key factor, just showing up!

However, the dynamics might be different for interaction if the children/grandparents had not known each other in person before going online. A sociologist reports in the NYT that that nearly half of American grandparents live more than 200 miles from at least one of their grandchildren and two-thirds see one set of grandparents just once a year or less.

In the same article, noted author Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT, worries that ever-more-real virtual encounters (think holograms) could make us forget what we are missing in the case of a grandchild: the smell of a grandmother’s cooking, the warmth of an embrace.

IRL vs Digital (State Fairs)

But, back to happy….It’s great that you are working on an actual project with a real deadline with your grandkids.  Here is one story you might want to talk this one over with the older kids, so that you both become aware of how ‘sharing virtually’ changes behaviors:

Most county fairs and live events have been cancelled this summer, as you mention. IRL, we enter tasty home-made pies, take rides that spin, and in the ‘4H’ animal ring, judge animals that are best-in-show. Kids that raise farm pets will miss transporting the beastie to the show, then the live showmanship, and, of course, the smells (!) . As the rules change, so does the digital entry: contestants might fluff up Muffie’s coat or add bulk, with Photoshop, that is.

There are lots of ways that our activities change when we go online, and we learn to look at things differently. If you are watching older kids online, it’s good to mull this over and get their perspective. Hopefully, we can use our technology to develop more intense personal relationships with the people we love. And,  when we do see them, it will be nice to reach out, smell, and touch.

Memes: Why So Popular?

What is it about Memes? Am I missing out?

A meme that won't bite. There is a picture of two wirefox terriers side by side. One has a horrible haircut and one is groomed. Is your dog groomer qualified?
A meme that won’t bite!

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I don’t usually browse much online but during the quarantine, I was scrolling on Instagram and came across your site. There was a picture of a sign-board, and a meme you called the ‘me me.’ It seemed like a big joke, but not to me. My 12 year old preteen and her friends talk about memes all the time. Can you explain memes please and let me in on the joke! Lea, Belvedere

Dear Lea: Without sounding like a communications PhD, the word meme comes from Greek mimema, signifying something which is imaged. Memes have a tendency, like the times we live in, to go viral. Memes are pieces of cultural information that pass along from person to person, but gradually scale into a shared social phenomenon.

When people like you and me post on social media we are neither professional journalists nor story tellers. We need to create content that is simple, entertaining, and attention grabbing. And, the words and graphics need to be bite-sized, like our smartphones. Once we post, there are few social constraints: sometimes we don’t know, and sometimes we don’t care if the content is offensive or misinterpreted.

Inside Jokes?

During an earlier time of TV and newspapers, content was transmitted from ONE (the media corporation) to MANY (the public). The Internet flips that equation. There is a price for that: content is now fast, free and uncensored. Think of it like playing an old-fashioned game of ‘telephone’; the original message morphs over time and through different oral speakers, often in funny ways.

For most teens, memes are probably a safe way to share ‘inside’ jokes. They are old enough to separate meme- talk from real-talk. This is important because a lot of content does seem to me to condone aggression, bullying, taking drugs and alcohol, or being a smart-aleck.

What if we believe them?

I have two worries: one is that younger children who are not old enough to comprehend the subtlety will come to view the adult-world with cynicism and disrespect. Take, for example, the bizarro memes about Bert and Ernie. Today’s kids don’t watch Sesame Street so they just see puppet figures talking trash. On a broader level, I worry that the content treadmill will spiral even more outlandish, off-color memes in order to grab our increasingly jaded attention.

Like a virus that spreads without vaccines, there are limits to what you can do as a parent right now, except limit your kid’s exposure (i.e. time on the Internet). Perhaps ask your preteen to help you create a meme (disclaimer: this is not a recommendation for the site, just an example). Once your meme is posted, follow it with your daughter to see how often that message is remixed and shared. It may be one of the few things to enjoy that goes viral these days.