I know Snapchat is not cool anymore.
I only have a quarter of the streaks I started college with. Old friends stopped Snapping me. New friends are ashamed to admit that they once used it. It’s clunky. It carries a bad connotation. It feels like the 2010s, they say. I get the criticism, but it’s hard for me to abandon Snapchat.
What exactly did college amount to? It’s definitely not the knowledge. Knowledge never stays: I lose that as soon as I step out of final exams. It’s not romance or beef or grievances. Maybe gossip, but I forget too quickly for it to matter. I can’t say it’s any cohesive skillset or excellence in a field — not with this excessively liberal of a liberal arts education.
I guess it’s a web of incoherent moments. The kind to which glimpses in the grocery line will inadvertently take me back. For me, a lot of those would be lost, if not for Snapchat’s ability to capture a moment’s poetic totality with image, video and text.
Instagram can do that too, you might say. But Instagram stories serve a more flamboyant purpose: They’re meant to be seen. Snapchat, on the other hand, allows me to snap unfiltered moments, caption with raw thoughts and save immediately into my archive. They remain private, and in exactly one year, Snapchat will remind me of this moment with its Flashbacks feature.
Scrolling through my snaps, I’m reminded of when the brisk clouds eclipsed the sun above Old Campus on the day I heard an acquaintance ended their own life. When the steaming pho lightly burned my skin at the dinner with people I didn’t know would become my best friends. When the air vibrated in rhythmic whooshes as I jump-roped in my common room during Covid. When the petals caressed my hair on the walk around the blooming Branford courtyard after quarantine was finally lifted.
I’m reminded of when I walked back from Marx Library after it closed at 11 p.m. The cold wasn’t so uncomfortable. I started skipping and thought of how romantic it is to bury myself deep underneath Science Hill for a day under the guise of studying.
My identity should be an uncompromising eternity, I once believed. A self-protective mechanism to not surrender my existence to ephemera. To prevent my ideals from being dictated by fleeting moments or persons, whose presence in my life will be necessarily temporary. But I’m coming to the realization that, at the end of the day, what am I but a collection of moments stored in neural pathways of organic materials?
Individually, the moments I recited might not be particularly important. But together, as a web, they deliver wisdom from experience. They define the boundaries of my understanding. They weave my eternity. They are my entire world.
When I graduated high school, I felt Jia Zhangke yelling through his film, “Mountains May Depart,” that “everyone can only be with you for a part of the journey.” I thought it was accurate then. Now, I’d say that even when relationships fade, something stays. Yes, sooner or later everybody leaves, but a part of them has already become a part of me. The neural pathways with them firmly ironed, the snaps of their poise and insanity, the moments, will stay with me. Give me courage, joy, inspiration. Remind me of my ignorance. Break my fall.
For the past four weeks, I went swimming every day at Payne Whitney Gymnasium to make up for the fact that I didn’t take advantage of Yale’s amenities over the past four years. It never occurred to me that the pool was something that I needed a proper goodbye with. One day, I got drenched in the spring rain on the way back, with osmanthus oil still lingering in my hair from when I put it on after swimming. It teleported me to fall in Shanghai. Wrong season, I know; not that I’ve ever been to Shanghai in the fall, I know. But this, somehow, felt exactly how it’s supposed to be.
I temporarily leave my theses behind: the suffering from procrastination is gone. For a speck of time, there is neither sun nor rain. I snap the sky and save a caption. I think about how there is no way to forget these moments unless you pretend to.
We will all be busy after college, but I implore you to take a moment to remember: the footsteps, the flickering lamp, the dawn awash in blue. This incoherent web of moments is the best thing that’s ever been mine. I hope it’s yours too. Cherish it. Remember it. Don’t let it dissolve, like tears in rain.
And maybe, if you’re like me, Snapchat can help with that.
Lawrence Wang is a senior in Timothy Dwight College.