By the minneapolis egotist / /
“We went on a PokemonGo date.”
My friend said this to me less than a week after the soon-to-be hysteria inducing app had hit the phonewaves. Sensing my confusion, he continued.
“We walked around a dog park and just talked and caught Pokemon. It was fun.”
This is not the moment where the walls of my mind burst open with pure epiphany about the state of my generation. No, that moment came hours later, while sitting on my couch playing PokemonGo, I thought back on that conversation. When I did, I realized that at the time it sounded perfectly reasonable to me.
Two young, professional, kinda-almost-thirties individuals spent their theoretically romantic evening wandering around a park full of real pets chasing after fake pets. It was a scene straight out of some satirical Sunday comic strip in the Baby Boomer Times. And yet my reaction to this was not to drop to my knees and lament the fall of man. Indeed, it was a genuinely sincere, “sounds like a good time.”
How did we get here? To my elders, my parents, and even many of my GenX friends and colleagues, this all sounds completely preposterous. And maybe it is preposterous. People stampeding through Central Park and walking themselves off of cliffs all for the sake of a video game. But to me and none-too-few of my peers, it makes all the sense in the world. Born on the doorstep of the internet, raised during the advent of the text message, and come of age on the frontier of social media, PokemonGo is everything we Millennials (shudder) have come to learn to love. Community meets gamification meets globalism meets nostalgia. The latest perfect cocktail.
“How do you Snapchat?”
This was asked to me by my youngesque, digitally savvy creative director. A man who is rightfully respected for his online media prowess and general trend awareness, he was, for all intents and purposes, Snapchat illiterate. An app with 100 million daily active users, yet strangely absent of advocates alive to see Die Hard in theaters. Why? The online denizenry was eager enough to cross generational lines to join Twitter, Instagram, and of course, Facebook. Is Snapchat different? Or will your grandmother be sending you bathroom selfies in a few years?
Tomes have been written attempting to understand the Apple Jacksian appeal of Snapchat, and I, balancing precipitously on the edge of thirtiesdom, am uniquely confused. Not only do I like Snapchat, but I don’t even understand why I like it. The app is needlessly limiting and indefensibly silly. Yet I snap on all the same. It’s a feeling I’ve had before growing up in the social media Wild West. Over the course of the last decade I’ve been told by the cultural zeitgeist that I can and should find restaurants, jobs, friends, sex, and even love through the (ever-expanding) screen of my phone. Every last bastion of privacy, intimacy, and scrupulousness sacrificed in the name of eCommunity. Never once batting an eye, lest I miss another unmissable fad in the process.
I can distinctly remember my first day on the then tirelessly talked-about Tinder. As I swiped my first swipe, I thought, “this is awful.” Five minutes later, I thought, “I love it.” Five years, and a handful of relationships, friendships and memories later I find the now-maligned Tinder to be a perfect microcosm of the Millennial relationship (so to speak) with social media trendiness. Objectively ridiculous, indescribably charming, often confusing, and in spite of its own best efforts, somehow cool.
And for now, I can still feel the coolness. Snapchat is fun. I suspect, maybe hopefully, that whatever comes after it will be fun. But at times like these, as I work diligently on a presentation explaining how use the app to a jury of my superiors, I am reminded of the immortal words of Abe Simpson.
“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. And it’ll happen to you, too.”
That’ll be me someday. Someone will need to explain the next big thing to me, and I’ll be staring at them blankly, not getting it. Maybe it will be a dating app based on entering your Social Security Number, or a texting app that translates every message into pig latin. When the day comes, I hope I can at least look back on nights spent drunkenly chasing Pokemon through the streets of Minneapolis and think, “that made sense at the time, too.”
So if the ascension of Gotta Catching Them All or the six-second-selfie is making you scratch your head and/or prognosticate the coming of a generational apocalypse, consider coming to the same conclusion I have: it doesn’t feel nearly as dumb if you’re doing it with a couple million other people.
Vince Koci is a writer, currently slinging copy for Minneapolis-based advertising agency Yamamoto. He is one of two hosts of the weekly interview series podcast 10,000 HOURS, which recently posted it’s 100th episode. He can be found annoying fellow patrons in local dive bars, or on twitter as @vinceandrepeat.