Jamaicans tearing up social media with daylong platform on Snapchat
Quick: What do you know about Jamaica? If you’re racking your brain for "Cool Runnings" quotes, stop right there.
All day Monday, you’ll have a chance to get a slice of everyday Jamaican life, delivered right to your smartphone – straight from the source.
On Sunday, Snapchat users in Jamaica woke up to a new message, notifying them that for 24 hours, Jamaica would be a featured location. This means that for one full day, Snapchat users from around the world will be able to peek into life on the island, right from their home screen in the app.
Almost immediately, Jamaican Snapchat enthusiasts took to Twitter and Facebook to celebrate, and strategize.
In a phone interview with The Times, a Kingston-based social media marketer said that people were excited for a chance to show off their country. “Some people think it’s just Bob Marley and the beach,” she said. “But we’re so much more.”
The excitement is palpable online. Some people reported that they were downloading Snapchat for the first time, to join in the fun. One person joked that Digicel and Flow, two major mobile service providers in Jamaica, stood to make tons of money off of Snapchatters signing up for plans or exceeding their data limits while obsessively posting to Snapchat.
In the past, places as diverse as Boston and Mecca, Saudi Arabia, have been featured locations, but this is the first time a Caribbean nation has had the honor. There’s more to come, though – in a phone interview with The Times, Snapchat Vice President of Communications Mary Ritti confirmed that Monday is only the first day of an entire “week in the islands.”
But just because Jamaica’s speaking to an international audience, don’t expect anyone to go easy on you.
Expect to see a bit of Jamaican patois, the local creole language, mixed in. You might hear a Wah gwaan! or a Greetings, massive! here and there. If you’re not familiar with those phrases, you should be – President Obama used those greetings to great effect when he visited Jamaica in April, and immediately spawned endless Vine loops and dancehall remixes.
“At first, some people were saying that we should have the JTB help,” one Twitter user said in an interview, referring to the Jamaican Tourism Board. “But then, I thought, no – we don’t want the government people involved. We want to show what we wear to work, where we go to school, what we do in our everyday life.”
“We want to represent ourselves like only we can.”
Tourism ads aren’t the only things that have rubbed some Jamaicans the wrong way recently.
In August, Buzzfeed was the target of some playful Jamaican joking when the outlet released an ill-conceived listicle of 27 “Jamaican dishes you should be eating right now.” Even without tasting them, people knew that the dishes were woefully inauthentic. The “saltfish and ackee fritters” that were championed near the top of the list don’t even exist in Jamaican food culture (it’s “ackee and saltfish,” and that’s not usually made into fritters). The “ginger beer” looked more like a mint julep.
Jamaican Twitter users responded with the hashtag #BuzzfeedBeLike, lampooning the site’s out-of-touch attempt at portraying their cuisine. Buzzfeed did not retract the article, but later changed the headline to say that the dishes were merely “Jamaican-inspired.”
“We’re going to make sure people see what our food really looks like. They’ll see real curry goat,” one Snapchat user joked in a phone interview. “Not that Buzzfeed stuff.”
So will we see an authentic Jamaica on our mobile phones? It’s hard to say – and some people are worried about yet another round of stereotypical images flooding social media.
Jamaicans will likely submit thousands of snaps, and from that number, only a small fraction will be added to the story, as they are hand-selected by a curation team. Snapchat's Ritti said that all curation is handled in Los Angeles and New York – so there’s no guarantee that Jamaicans will be vetting the snaps that the world will see.
But this time, the source material is coming straight from the island. And many Jamaicans are hoping that they’ll make a great showing.
Nobody knows yet what "story" we'll see on Monday. But in the meantime, those of us overseas owe Snapchat users in Jamaica a word of thanks for inviting us into their world.
Or, in patois: Big up alla di Jamaican massive pon Snapchat!
Follow me @dexdigi for more on the intersection of culture and the Internet.