Snapchat Pet Peeves

It took me a while to get in to Snapchat. At first I thought it was only for NBA players to accidentally post nudes and thought it was dumb that the posts disappear after 24 hours. However, I soon realized that the fact that posts disappear is THE BEST THING about Snapchat. Why? Because, if you’re anything like me, you post stuff on social media that you think is cool at the time but actually just ends up sounding dumb–as I am constantly reminded by my Timehop app. (“Ugh, why did I tweet random Frank Ocean lyrics twice a day in 2011?! Oh, right, I was trying to seem sexy.”)

Snapchat is a great way to get a literal glimpse of peoples’ lives and not necessarily have to interact with them if you don’t want to.If you’re not interested in something, you can just tap through it and your feed goes straight to the next post. It’s way less time to check your Snapchat feed than it is to check your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Facebook is for major life events, Instagram is for photos that you’re proud of and want to memorialize, and Twitter is for commentary on news/sports games/award shows/other live events. But what about all the rest? What about the mildly interesting or quirky occasions that don’t necessarily need to be remembered? That is visceral, fleeting Snapchat territory.

But now that I’ve used it enough, just like other social media platforms, there is behavior I see almost daily on Snapchat that really busts my balls and is sure to result in an “unfollow”…eventually. But first, I’m gonna complain about it.

  1. Filters. They can be fun, but it’s very easy to abuse them. Before you post a selfie of yourself as a dog or a bumblebee or a deceivingly prettier version of yourself with a crown of flowers, think to yourself: “Would I be annoyed if I had to tap through 26 of my friends with dog and bumblebee and flower crown faces every day?” Because the answer, if you can’t guess, is YES. Everybody please, please cool it with the filters–if I’m following you, that I means I already know what you look like. I can probably stretch my imagination to envision what your face looks like with the dog or bumblebee or flower crown filter, because guess what? It’s the exact same as everyone else’s.

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    I found this on the internet and it perfectly encapsulates my feelings about the dog filter.

  2. Driving. WHAT ARE YOU DOING SNAPPING WHILE DRIVING?!!! You’re gonna kill someone! Every time I see a shot of the Strip or L.A. or the Utah countryside taken from the driver’s seat, I die a little inside. These snaps are not interesting enough to warrant vehicular manslaughter.
  3. Sending people snaps that are the same as your Story. If I’m following you and you posted a Story, I’m probably going to look at it anyway. You don’t need to send it directly to me too. Unless it specifically is for me, then just put it on your Story and I will see it like everyone else.
  4. Excessive chatting. FYI, the chat function on Snapchat is not a good venue for “keeping in touch.” Send me a Facebook message where you can actually fit all the words you want to type if you want to catch up.
  5. Volume. Video snaps can be way cool and there are a lot of people I follow who are really good at them. But the occasions when I’m around people looking at snaps with the volume on are SUPER annoying. If you’re on Snapchat in a public place, do everyone a favor and either set it to mute or check it later when you’re by yourself.
  6. Floating head videos. Don’t take snaps of yourself talking, because half of your followers don’t have the sound on if they’re not tryna be RUDE and commit Annoying Snapchat Violation #5. If you want to have a video diary, there’s another app for that, and it’s called YouTube.
  7. Snaps of THE SAME THING, OVER AND OVER in succession. “You’re at a concert! That looks fun! Oh, it’s a man playing a song on his guitar. That’s cool. Oh! There’s another snap…of the same man. Playing a different song this time. (Maybe? All country music sounds the same to me.) Oh, and now there he is playing another–well, screw this, ain’t nobody got time for 37 Garth Brooks songs in a row!”
  8. Snaps of things that are also on other social media sites. I already saw this exact photo on your Instagram, which is also linked to your Facebook and your Twitter. You just REALLY wanted me to see your nephew and his dog in the grass, didn’t you?
  9. Dick pics. UGH stop sending me nudes, Draymond! I’m a married woman!
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What’s In A Name

If you’ve known me for longer than three years, you know that I didn’t always go by Kate. Long story short, my parents gave me a beautiful name and I ruined it.

I’m writing this post as an apology to my friends but mostly my family to account for the years of confusion over my name.

***

When I was born, I was called by my middle name, as is the custom for some in my family. Everyone called me “Misha” until the first grade. I love my middle name and the great woman that I am named after, and I love being unique–as an adult. However, one thing that kids hate is being different from their peers. There weren’t any other Misha’s at my school, and I had recently found out that my legal first name was Kathryn (nobody called me that, so how was I to know?). So, I told my teacher that I wanted to be called Kathryn instead of Misha.

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Misha with the good hair

Other people recall this story differently. They say that it was a moment of me asserting my independence, of taking control of my young life. Maybe it was like that and I just don’t remember because I was so young, but I don’t see why I would have made that decision unless I wanted to fit in more. Or maybe I was just bored and wanted a change–which, come to think of it, is actually a big reason why I do a lot of the things I do.

But the story doesn’t end there. For a lot of traditional English names such as mine, there are plenty of nicknames and abbreviations. And if a person doesn’t choose a nickname on their own, one will often be given to them. Apparently “Kathryn” is just way too long of a name and people feel compelled to shorten it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people my first name, and they follow up with: “Well yeah, but what do you go by?”

I was twelve when a boy in my class started calling me “Kat.” It was as a joke–he was messing with me, but it stuck. Instead of trying to resist it and giving him what he wanted, which was to get a rise out of me, I embraced it instead. By eighth grade, everyone was calling me Kat. I HATE BEING CALLED KAT. I hate it so much! I think I hated it then, too, but it was too late to change it. I went all the way through high school known as Kat, and every time I pictured a hypothetical woman named “Kat Snow,” she was everything I didn’t want to be. I didn’t feel feminine, I didn’t feel taken seriously, and I didn’t feel like myself when I was called Kat. (No offense to any Kats out there–I know some genuinely lovely people with that name. It’s just not for me.)

As soon as I got to college, I tried to make it easy and revert back to Kathryn. The only problem is that EVERYBODY MY AGE is named Kathryn or some variation of it. I actually did some research and confirmed that Katherine was the #26 most popular baby name of 1989 (when I was born), and combined with the Kathryn’s and Catherine’s, we have to be at least 3rd to the Amandas and Jessicas. Sure enough, when I moved into my freshman dorm there were FOUR other(K)(C)ath(ryn)(erine)s on my floor alone. So, at least three of us had to make compromises, or else it would be too confusing. My neighbor already went by Katie, so again I was stuck with “Kat” once more for my first year of college. The other three years, I cracked down and only introduced myself as Kathryn.

Then, I got accepted to the Peace Corps. I arrived at our Staging event in Philadelphia with a bunch of strangers that would later become my close friends. And that was part of the appeal of that experience: none of these people knew me. They didn’t remember me as little permed-haired Misha or awkward, surly high school Kat or confrontational college student Kathryn. I was immediately faced with a familiar situation: there was more than one (K)(C)ath(ryn)(erine) in our group. I soon found out that one of them went by Kat.

I was free! For the first time in my life, I could decide what I wanted to be called. When people came up to me and asked my name, I told them: “Kate. My name’s Kate.” I had always liked that name. And it stuck, not just with everyone else, but with me too; I finally felt like myself. And I embraced this name way more than I had the others. Nobody asked me what I “go by,” and I felt feminine and taken seriously at the same time. So when I came back from Peace Corps 18 months later, I had a new name to match the new person I was.

***

People who know me as Misha, Kathryn, or Kat are very considerate and ask me things like, “What should I call you now?” I always tell them the same thing: Call me whatever you know me as. I love being called Misha by my family and oldest friends. I know who my college friends are because I’m Kathryn to them. And I always have the high school memories of when I was Kat to keep me humble.

So, in summary, sorry that I keep changing my name. I PROMISE I won’t do it again. But I do like being Kate, mostly because she is a product of Misha and Kat and Kathryn.

And now, just for fun, a list of ALL the nicknames I’ve ever had:

  • Butch (after I got my hair cut short when I was 4–thanks a lot, Dad)
  • Katty
  • Kitty Kat
  • Kat Dog
  • Katty Kat Kat Kat (shout out to Hillary at Girls Camp 2004)
  • Katinka (shout out to Coach Sefcheck)
  • Kiki (shout out to Ron)
  • K-Swiss (shout out to Courtney, a.k.a. C-Unit)
  • Kath (shout out to my Saudi friends junior year who couldn’t pronounce my full name)
  • Kathy (shout out to Ari, Cara, and Kim)
  • You Know Nothing, Kate Snow (shout out to Xhemzi and Jon Snow himself)
  • Katerina (my Albanian name)
  • Katja
  • Kejti
  • Boo (shout out to my Boo)

And there will probably be more.

Shut Up, You’re Not Moving to Canada

Every four years, America reluctantly chooses between an egomaniac who has been bought and paid for by special interests and another egomaniac who has been bought and paid for by different special interests. Everyone hates both of them but they’re the only two guys (well, now there’s a lady in the mix) who are narcissistic enough to believe that they can actually BE THE BOSS OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY.

This time around, everyone is losing their minds about Trump. Half the country loves him because he is an exception to the standard “bought and paid for by special interests” profile of a typical political candidate. (He has, however, made up for that by doubling up on the “egomaniac” description.) The other half of the country hates him and the orangutan that lives on his head and says things like:

“I can’t believe it has come to this!”

“We’re truly doomed if we elect him.”

“I’m so worried about what’s happening to this country. I’m moving to Canada!”

“I’m SCARED!”

I heard similar things from my conservative friends when Obama was elected. And re-elected. And me (back when I didn’t know any better) and my liberal friends said the same stuff when Bush was elected. And re-elected. I was a baby when [Bill] Clinton was elected, but I’m sure my conservative baby friends were like, “Waaaaaaah!”

It doesn’t matter who wins; half of the country is going to be upset that they didn’t get their way. They’ll be embarrassed because their guy (or lady) didn’t win and that the other guy (or lady) is now going to RUIN EVERYTHING. Half of the country will be “scared” and start stockpiling canned peas in their basements because they’re convinced the world is coming to an end because someone they disagree with is in control of things…sorta.

I’m sure that presidential policies affect peoples’ lives. People lost their lives in Iraq because of Bush and people lost their jobs because of Obamacare and people lost their virginities because of Clinton. I know that it does matter who is president…to an extent. It’s not completely irrelevant. But what all these “scared” people are going to have a harder time convincing me of is that I should be “scared” too. Because although politics may have some impact on my life, I’m not going to lose my mind over it and fool myself into thinking that either of those egomaniacs is actually going to make my life better, just as I don’t believe they’re going to destroy it. ‘Cuz you know who alone has the power to do that? ME! I am the one who ruins my life!

If Trump gets elected it will suck because I hate that man and I don’t think he represents our country’s values. If Hillary gets elected it will suck because I don’t think she has a single ethical bone in her body. They might make some poor decisions and get blowback for it from the opposing party; but hell, they might make some good decisions too. Either way, I refuse to blame any problems I might have on who happens to be the president. It’s fine to express genuine disapproval. It’s really annoying and immature to pretend that things are so bad that you’re going to abandon your homeland even though there are legitimately dysfunctional governments in many parts of the world.

So in conclusion: Shut up, you’re not “moving to Canada.” You will deal with a president you don’t like just like everyone else, and you’ll move on with your life, which isn’t actually that bad. Because dammit, this is a great country, and although we’re not perfect I love it and wouldn’t rather live anywhere else.

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Stupid Baby Names

I’m not sure if this is a recent trend because I’m at the point in my life where a lot of my peers are having children, or if this has always been the case, but I’ve noticed that it’s become super cool to give your babies “unique” names–Viking princesses, Spanish noblemen, the Swahili word for “hope,” etc. It’s also super cool to give your kid a traditional name but spell it all weird, like Avary or Jaxon or Holleigh. It’s even more cool to give your kid the name of an inanimate object like Aqueduct or Chamomile or Zamboni.

And it makes me SO ANGRY. It makes a lot of other people angry too. I have frequent negative conversations with my co-workers and loved ones about the weird names we encounter.

But I’m not going to be a Trump and spend the remainder of this post bashing on parents who choose names like this. I’m going to use critical thinking to try to figure out why these non-traditional names bother me so much, because it doesn’t really make sense. After all, I certainly don’t adhere to tradition when it comes to anything else. In fact, I maintain the belief that traditions can often be silly or even dangerous. So why do all the Astrids and Jayssons and Xanthippes out there elicit such irrational rage inside me? There are at least three possibilities:

  1. Unusual names slightly inconvenience me. One thing for parents to seriously consider is that people your child encounters will have difficulty pronouncing and spelling their names. They might even be taken less seriously if their employers or professors hold certain biases. (There is probably data on this but I’m too lazy to look it up.) Ultimately, when Holleigh Martin comes in to my office and I search for “Holly Martin” a dozen times to try to find her student account, it’s annoying, but she won’t be denied admission because her dad was tripping on acid when he filled out her birth certificate.
  2. I’m getting old. I regularly use the phrase “kids these days.” I don’t know how to use Snapchat. My little brother had to teach me how to type in ALL CAPS ON MY IPHONE AND NOW I DON’T KNOW HOW TO TURN IT OFF. The idea of staying out past 10:00 intimidates me. I use a cane and I shake it at people when I catch them on my front lawn. Bottom line, maybe I just don’t know what’s cool anymore and I’m not as progressive as I think I am so my opinion is obsolete.
  3. It’s all relative. Other people will probably think my kids’ names are stupid too. Scott and I have already picked out our baby names because we’re lame like that. I used to share them with other people but have now stopped because I get bummed out by their reactions. If we have a girl, she’ll be Avery. (“Avery?! Like the envelope label company?”) If we have a boy, he’ll be Charles but will go by Chip. (“…Wow. Uh, have you thought about Charlie or Chuck instead?”) These are the same types of reactions I give to my peers who introduce me to their kids Reks and Brandee. People even give me a hard time for being Kathryn instead of Katherine or Catherine. (But I love being Kathryn with a Y!) So, as with everything, the best way to do things is your own way and ignore people like me who will complain about it.

And I sincerely hope Chip’s younger brother will enjoy living his life as Tyrion Lannister Rogers-Snow, ‘cuz that is totally happening.

Haters Aren’t A Thing

Hater (n.):

  1. a person who says something less than overwhelmingly positive about another person
  2. a person who disagrees with another person.

***

In the age of Twitter and 24-hour news cycles and 12-year-olds playing with apps created by porn stars who got their own reality shows, both regular people and public figures are overexposed to other people’s opinions. We have more free time than any other previous generation, so we spend it on our dumb thoughts and feelings instead of manual labor and tedious chores. In the old days you could expect to spend your day harvesting crops by hand and washing your entire family’s clothes on one of those bumpy thingies in the river and nursing your husband back to health after he was wounded in a duel. Now, there’s some form of technology that will do all that for you.

In history there were actual feuds. People shot each other over petty insults and went on genocidal rampages and had charged, ugly political and racial rivalries. Some of that still exists today, but the attention given to it pales in comparison to that of made-up celebrity feuds. Nowadays if one public figure says anything remotely negative about another public figure, it becomes a “feud” which causes subsequent “backlash” and “outrage”! The truly unsettling result of this is that the person who makes a less-than-glowingly-positive remark, regardless of their intentions or the validity of their opinion, is immediately labeled a “hater.” And now even unimportant people like you and me have adopted this feud mindset and started attributing conflict with others as just blowback from “haters.”

If you don’t like those movies then you’re a hater or if you don’t think his team will win the championship then you’re a hater or if you make fun of him for cheating on his wife then you’re a hater or if you think her second album was better then you’re a hater or if you don’t think vaccinations cause autism you’re a hater. Who are all these hater people? Where do they all come from and why are they so awful and mean, amirite?!!

The answer is twofold: First, haters don’t actually exist. But if you insist that they do, then everyone is a hater.

Hear me out…

  • Maybe your “haters” have a perfectly legitimate reason to be “hating” on you. Maybe you made a bad decision or your career has taken a turn for the worse or you are starting to tweet really erratic, weird stuff. Maybe you were actually a huge jerk and cheated on them or wore the same outfit at a party on purpose or stole their idea for The Facebook and you deserve some hate.
  • Maybe your “haters” are actually providing constructive criticism as opposed to your two-faced best friend or your publicist or who is just a Yes-man. Just because someone doesn’t love everything you do doesn’t make them your enemy.
  • Or maybe there are actual “haters” out there who are jealous and negative and just want to see you fail. And if that’s the case, making a show about trying to avoid them or how you “don’t care what they say” just legitimizes their behavior so maybe you should shut up and just go about your life.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all haters. Everyone who thinks critically and has genuine opinions and isn’t terrified to share them, that is. I’m a proud hater–I don’t have to like everyone and everything and I can disagree with others without losing my mind. And when people criticize me, I don’t dismiss their opinions.

Except for when my husband makes fun of Lord of the Rings. That opinion is wrong and bad and he’s just a big fat hater.

Hunger and Thirst

All the health and fitness blogs I read (while binge-eating my husband’s Wheat Thins) say that if you suddenly get hungry, you might actually just be thirsty, so you should drink a bunch of water before indulging in snacks you’ll regret later on. In other words, satisfy your thirst before you get a better idea of what you’re actually hungry for.

I know hungry people. And I’m not talking about the little gypsy girls in my Albanian town that my sitemate and I would buy bananas for. I’m talking about people that wanted something so badly that they wanted it like their body wanted food. They needed it. And whether it was a body perfectly sculpted by day after day of Crossfit or yoga, or a medical degree, or a published novel, or a prestigious career protecting the country or catching bad guys or saving the world, that hunger they felt resulted in those accomplishments.

I’ve had to admit something to myself recently: I don’t know what I’m hungry for anymore. Overall, I’m extremely happy with my life, but because of the person I am or the culture I live in (or most likely both) I can’t help but wonder, “What’s next?” What have I done that is notable lately? What am I working toward? Why am I not hungry for things–competitive swimming, writing fiction, reading philosophy, graduating from college, joining the Peace Corps–like I used to be?

Part of the answer, I think, lies in the inherent frustrations of adult life. It’s college admission season, and while everyone who got accepted to the programs they wanted is wearing rose-colored glasses, mine are significantly grayer. Because I work in college admissions and see how misled students can be, myself included. There’s a perpetual narrative of: “get good grades in high school -> go to college -> SUCCEED beyond your wildest dreams!!!” And few people are willing to admit that it’s more complicated than that. There is no narrative to follow once you reach adulthood.

I feel an immense amount of pressure to SUCCEED in the way I am expected to as a college graduate. (Hence my constant, unrelenting anxiety.) But that desire is not hunger. That’s just thirst. Wanting to succeed for the sake of success is petty and even morally wrong. What I forget is that people who truly succeed aren’t thirsty for success. They’re hungry for what they really want to get out of life.

Sometimes I think I know what I want to do, but it’s scary. Writers don’t earn a lot of money or have a lot of job stability or get awesome public employee benefits. (All of which are things I very, very much appreciate about adult life.) But those very things are what get in the way of allowing myself the time and energy by which to pursue what I might actually be hungry for. You can call that an excuse, and that’s fine. But it is an explanation–and a big one–for why I and many other adults I talk to are so thirsty. Your day job, even if you enjoy it as I do mine, takes a lot out of you.

I need a tall, cool glass of water to flush out all these insecurities. Maybe I will find it by watching “This Is Water” over and over again until I finally understand that the world does not revolve around me. Maybe I will one day be in a position where I can satisfy my thirst and find out what I’m truly hungry for.

In the mean time, I need to avoid snacking.

(Seriously, though. I eat way too many Wheat Thins.)

Goals: You’re Doing Them Wrong

In 2014, I set a goal to run the Istanbul Marathon. It was the trendy thing to do in Peace Corps Albania at the time, and after witnessing some of my colleagues successfully train for and compete in the race, I was inspired. And what was the first thing I did after I decided to follow in their footsteps (literally)? Why, I wrote a Facebook status announcing my endeavor to the world, of course. I received 37 likes and 8 comments in response praising my new aspiration.

I thought at the time, as I have in many other instances, that if my friends knew about my goal then they would motivate me and support me, but more importantly hold me accountable to it. “Hey Kate, aren’t you running a marathon later this year? How’s your training going?” And if I was slacking, that comment would convince me to pick up the pace. If I didn’t follow through with my goal that I had shared with everyone I knew, I would end up looking foolish. And at the same time, because my loved ones knew that I had undertaken something difficult, they would encourage me and help me to achieve it.

Right?

Lots of people publicize their goals with these same intentions and share (and over-share) the commitments they’ve taken on in order to motivate themselves. But does it actually work? Did I run that marathon? Nooooope.

Here are several reasons why relying on external social factors to achieve your goals isn’t effective:

  1. Nobody actually cares. It seems depressing at first, but it’s actually just an unspoken truth. The people in your life, while they may care about you in an “overall well-being” sense, don’t have time or energy to follow up with you about every little thing. Guess how many people asked me: “Why didn’t you run that marathon? You’re such a disappointment!!!” Exactly zero. People forget about stuff because they’re busy with their own stuff. For the most part, nobody is paying attention.
  2. The people closest to you will support you no matter what. The exception to #1 is your inner circle of friends and family. My loved ones were very supportive of me running that marathon. It’s nice to feel loved and supported, but assuming these relationships are healthy, these people are not going to bash you if you change your mind or don’t end up achieving your goal. If your goal is something like quitting smoking they might be more invested because your health is at stake and it’s gross to be around, but if it’s something like running a marathon, they’d probably be happy for you but that’s about it. If it’s a personal goal, the motivation has to be personal. Other people cannot give you near the same drive you can give yourself.
  3. Science. There have actually been studies done on this concept. (A fantastic TED talk about this research can be viewed here.) People who share their goals with other people end up less likely to accomplish them. Why? When I wrote that Facebook post, I received instant validation just for saying I was going to run a marathon without even lacing up my shoes. The approval I would have received from others at the finish line in Istanbul was already given to me before I accomplished the goal. The only thing left after receiving that validation was my own desire to accomplish the goal and my own drive that would earn me that medal. My own internal personal motivation–the same thing that still would have existed and been essential to my success if I hadn’t posted the status about my goal.

All this is not to say that external support can’t be very meaningful to people working toward a difficult goal. If you try and fail at something, it can be incredibly comforting to have a loved one comfort and encourage you when you’re down. A “buddy system” for a goal like losing weight or reading more books can actually be very helpful, and is backed by science as well. However, this only works when the parties involved have made an explicit agreement to keep each other accountable. Assuming that someone will keep you accountable is not enough, he or she has to share the same values and be working toward the same goal as you.

At the end of the day, I alone am left with the disappointment of not running that marathon and not getting in to Stanford Law School and not giving up Diet Coke. Other people might notice and might have opinions about it, but in reality they probably don’t because they’re busy worrying about themselves just like I am. At the end of the day, the people who love me still love me even as someone who can only bust out a measly 5K once a week, is not walking around wearing a monocle at an Ivy League institution, and perpetually craves aspartame. We should not rely on others to motivate us to attack our shortcomings and achieve what we want most. They can help, but only we can do these things.

So we should shut up about them and get to work.