An adult's guide to the "screenshot dab thing" on Snapchat — the hottest new teen trend


Teens have found a way to dab for all eternity.

If you follow anyone under the age of 25 on Snapchat, you might have noticed a recurring trend this week: a never-ending screenshot cascade of Bitmoji figures dabbing, their icons branching off one another into infinity. The chain letter is back, and you can thank teens for making it weirder than ever.

The "screenshot dab thing," as they're calling it, looks like this:

Here's how it works

You see a photo of the dab chain in someone else's story. You screenshot the image, white out their name and add your Bitmoji to the front of the dab chain. You then post it to your own story or DM it to a group of friends.

Taylor Lorenz/Snapchat

Where did it come from? 

In March 2016, Snapchat bought Bitstrips, the maker of the Bitmoji app — which allows users to create tiny custom avatars — for more than $100 million. Four months later, Bitmoji was fully integrated into Snapchat. Now it takes only a couple taps to add your own Bitmoji to any snap.

No one is sure where the dab chain originated, and some report seeing it as far back as a month ago. But it seems to have taken off in the past week, peaking over the weekend before inevitably facing some backlash.

Noorjahan, a 22-year-old from Singapore, said she began seeing it two days ago. About five or six friends of her friends participated and she noticed it gaining steam from there. She herself refrained from hopping on the bandwagon. "I think it's lame and they are kind of attention seeking," she said in a direct message.  

Some kids will always be "too cool," but thousands of others are excited to join in the action.

Andre Tacuyan, a 23-year-old in the Bay Area, said he first saw it on friends' stories and thought it was hilarious. He said that after he saw it on Snapchat it began to appear everywhere for him on Twitter and Instagram Explore.

"I thought it was funny how viral it was getting," he said. "I wanted everyone to join in and I got excited when I got a notification that a friend screenshotted my dab."

"I just wish there was a way to see the total number of people on it, though, because after a point it looks like infinity," he added.

Tiffany Zhong, a 20-year-old tech entrepreneur in the Bay Area, said so many people had participated in her network that she eventually saw her own dab boomerang back to her, with four degrees of separation.

"It was both hilarious and mind-blowing that my dab came back so quickly in the span of two hours or so," Zhong said. "I had a feeling this meme would go viral, but I had no idea it would be so immediate."

"It connects you with people you don't know"

Annie Yuan, a 22-year-old from Berkeley, California, who also participated in the dab chain, said the reason she thinks it's going viral is because it feels like everyone is collectively building something.

"It sort of connects you with people you don't know," Yuan said. "Like they're total strangers but you're participating in this big ongoing event. Since it's a collective effort, and so you want to keep it going. It makes you feel like you're doing a project with a lot of people." 

"At first, I thought the chain was just within my friend group, but it turned out to be huge. I also think it grew fast because it's so easy to do. You can add your Bitmoji right away, it doesn't take an hour," she said.

Even Snapchat celebrities are participating. Justin Kan, a 34-year-old entrepreneur and one of Silicon Valley's biggest Snapchat stars, also joined in.

In a conversation over Snapchat, he said someone had sent him the dab screenshot a few days ago; he decided to participate mainly because it looked like fun and was simple to do.

"I did the screenshot dab thing last week personally because I'm a child and easily amused," said Anis Rashid, a 26-year-old in New York City. 

About five or six friends of his friends participated in the dab chain right away, and Rashid said this is the biggest screenshot game he's seen on Snapchat and the only one he's seen that has used Bitmoji.

"Publishers try to get you to do this stuff all the time, but adoption of that has been pretty low," Rashid said. "I've never seen anyone share one of those things from Discover."

A marketing stunt? 

Jason Wong, a 19-year-old marketer who specializes in Tumblr, said he was disappointed the trend hadn't hit his own timeline yet. "I think it's incredible that Snapchat users are finding new ways to have fun with the app's native features," he said. "I wonder if this is a stunt by Bitmoji? If so, that would be brilliant."

We reached out to Snapchat's communications department, but it doesn't seem likely that it's a marketing stunt. Though many people consider Snapchat an inherently anti-viral platform, games on the app do spread regularly.

It's the latest chain game to go viral on Snapchat

"The biggest one I've seen before this was the chug-and-pass-back," Rashid said. In that game you send a snap of yourself chugging (often alcohol) to a group of friends; they snap you back with their chug and continue the chain.

Fill-in-the-blank-type screenshot games are also popular with middle schoolers and teens who treat it like passing notes.  

Tacuyan said he and his younger sister see things like this all the time in their feeds. "I see a lot of 'Screenshot, write your name, and send to five people,' 'Put this in your story if you want me in your 2017,' '50 screenshots and I'll go streaking through the game,' stuff like that. If they sound fun I participate, otherwise I just go on with my day," he wrote in a message over Twitter.

Taylor Lorenz/Snapchat

For now, the Bitmoji dab chain continues to thrive.

"I don't think this dab will ever end," said Branden Ponschke, a 22-year-old from Los Angeles. "There are so many branches of people it's going to. It could end up running for a very long time. I don't know about months, but definitely for weeks, which is a pretty long time for a Snapchat meme."

If you want to participate, snap a photo of one of the screenshots in this story, add your Bitmoji and dab on.