Photo by: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Sweet SnapChat Sixteen

by Lynn Zakeri, LCSW
Photo by: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

My son turned 16 this month.

I knew going into this year he was not a Sweet 16 Party kind of guy. My son is laid back, low-key, chill, and avoids drama at all costs. That is why his agreeing to host a birthday party of 18 boys was a surprise to me.

It started a month prior. I calculated the best way I could get him to agree to some sort of acknowledgment of this milestone year. I already knew that a party was not on his mind. Contrary to his genes, he has never been into birthdays. I, on the other hand, love birthdays. I am one of those “It’s My Birthday Month” people. My best friend and I still text each other on our half birthdays. But my son has shied away from parties since he was 8. He would rather pick up his favorite food (Potbelly or Chipotle—or on birthdays, a combination of both at once!—and eat dinner with the family.

I weighed my options and chose what I hoped would be most successful at obtaining a yes. I sent him a text last month that suggested inviting over his three closest friends to order out food, make a fire in the firepit and have cake. SOLD! He said yes, asked his friends, and agreed that —since it was on his actual birthday—it was better than tolerable. He was even participating in the details of the evening. Then… the group chat mishap happened.

Someone mentioned the same date to go to a movie. Someone else mentioned that they could do both the movie and the birthday if the timing worked out because he assumed it was not a private gathering. My son made the quick (right) decision to “put it in the group chat.”

What does this mean? It means that all 16 of the boys who are in the SnapChat group chat would learn the details of the party based on a post by my son and respond yes or no if they are coming. It looked something like this:

Let me know tonight or tomorrow if you can come to my house Friday from 4:30-9. We are going to order food and make brackets and play basketball and my mom will probably take too many pictures and then we will make a fire and have cake.

Then, people ideally reply yes or no.

The first level of confusion is the three or four boys who don’t regularly keep up with the chat. They may even be used to the chat being “spammed.” This means there are times when people post memes or jokes and there are several notifications at once so the chat gets ignored. Therefore, a few boys never said yes or no in terms of attending. This would not be a problem, except my son also messaged the group that he is ordering shirts to make teams for the sports and needed to know how many to order and sizes. Sounds like a nightmare to gather all of this, but he indeed collected several answers, except for the few.

He finally got all the replies, from all 16 boys. Even some apologies for not seeing the original message. (They explained they were used to spam and ignoring.) Amazingly, all 16 boys said yes. Putting my own jealous feelings aside about how he got 100% positive, enthusiastic responses, this informal way, I celebrated that we could move on to the next task of ordering shirts, plates, etc.

But the mom in me nagged at me a bit, and I said to him, “Is there anyone who will learn about your party and feel left out?” He mentioned two people that made a lot of sense to me as I knew the boys. Interestingly, they were not the names I was thinking about, but I appreciated his inclusion. He invited them, they said yes, and the shirts were ordered.

My son reminded me of past times of trying to add these two boys to the group chat, but he ended up losing this battle because of the politics involved in this. It is, to sum it up, disgusting. Basically, the unwritten rules are that the teens need approval from everyone to add an additional member to their chat.

I asked about a very close friend of his that plays on his sports team, that he shares rides with, that he talks to many times a week. My son looked at me like I was crazy. “That would be so weird,” he said, explaining that that boy has his own group, and they would not invite my son just as my son would not invite him, no hurt feelings at all. Okay… But then why is it okay to invite the other two boys? Because they don’t have their own big chat group. They are just in the random groups (meaning group chats) created here and there. For example, a “who wants to study for the test at my house tomorrow” or “who wants to play basketball at X park right now” groups would be created for the particular groups in that class with the test, or for those boys who typically play basketball at that nearby park.

I guess my inclination to not push this one comes from my job. I am a therapist and I work with many adolescents. This group chat exclusivity is not new to me. I understand it, and as a therapist, I don’t have to like it or not like it. I have to, again, simply understand it. I have spent many sessions with teens needing to “break up” with their group chat, and counseling many teens when new group chats are formed minus my client.

This is also why I did not allow Snapchat on my sons’ phones until they could tell me why Snapchat makes their lives better: my eighth grader still has not approached me with this, and my 16-year-old came to me freshman year explaining his school sports team was arranging practices via Snapchat group chats. (Sidenote: I don’t use Snapchat. All of my information here about the rules and dynamics are hearsay.)

The new cliques are now written. They are not assumed based on who you hang with, or sit with at lunch, or dress like, or anything else we did in the pre-social-media days. They are the people in your group chat. For my son, who will have boys at his party that he would not consider his closest friends or confidants—instead of the boys that he shares blood, sweat, and tears with on the field—group chats keep the social system working without drama and help my son maintain his low-key, chill life.

Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW is a therapist in the Chicago area whose passion is to help people figure out what is wrong and help them feel better again. She is also a wife, daughter, sister and mom.

Like This Article

Like Mamapedia

Learn From Moms Like You

Get answers, tips, deals, and amazing advice from other Moms.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us
Want to become a contributor?
Want to become a contributor?

If you'd like to contribute to the Wisdom of Moms on Mamapedia, please sign up here to learn more: Sign Up

Recent Voices Posts

See all