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Like us, they live in the same city and see each other way too often. Like us, there is a shady one, a sweet one, a tired one, and the young ones. Like us, they hang out with each other an awful lot, though our reasoning for this because we like each other enough and not because we’re so famous that we can’t trust anyone other than our family. Like us, they love each other very, very much — but are reluctant to say it out loud.
They live in Calabasas and have more money than I will ever touch in my life. We live in Brooklyn and we get by. But, the similarities are incontrovertible. The Kardashians embody the ride or die ethos that we strive for. It’s evident in their every move. When Rob started to try it in those early months before we knew who Angela Renee Kardashian was, his sister Khloe posted a picture of all the sisters, minus Kylie and Kendall and plus Larsa Pippen, captioned "Never go against THE family. I love Yeezy’s studio speeches!" More than a subtweet but less than just calling him out, I understood the impulse. Try as you might — there will be days when you try — family is the one bond you do not break.
While I’ve never felt the need to defend my sisters on social media, I know that the way I feel about them would inspire the same kind of Instagram stunting if I felt like our family — or one of them — were being threatened. I’ve learned nothing substantive about the Kardashian-Jenner sisters from the show, love it as I do. Everything the Kardashians have taught me about being a good sister come from Snapchat.
If you buy into any part of the Kardashians’ multi-tentacled empire, ignore the games and the lip kits and Kylie’s fondness for shilling detox tea on Instagram. Their snapchat is the treasure trove of unfiltered performative sisterhood and family. Even if you think they’re overexposed fame grubbers who rose to the top thanks to Kris Jenner's witchcraft, watching Kim snap pictures of Saint’s feet clad in tiny custom Yeezys or Kourtney and Khloe running through brutal workouts together in the bright California sun will change your mind.
Though the sisters K are individual brands, each one tailored to appeal as specifically as possible to the largest swath of consumers, but watching Kourtney make eggs for Kylie while speaking in a bad British accent or hearing Khloe call Kourtney a "fucktard" while they argue about starting their workout while Kylie texts in silence reminds you that yes, they are sisters first.
Their Instagram feeds are nothing more than a wasteland for selfies too similar to each other that they all feel the same and the occasional photo of North West. Watching the Kardashians’ discover Snapchat has been a true joy. There’s little doubt that each sister has a social media manager or at the very least a Snapchat helper that holds the camera while the glam squad flatirons endless yards of straight, shiny hair. But, the content is still fresh and unfiltered. As Jenna Wortham wrote in the New York Times, "Snapchat isn’t the place you go to be pretty. It’s the where you go to be yourself." If the Kardashians work the back channels hard enough, I’m sure Snapchat would provide them with something that lets them control the narrative, but for now, the medium still feels fresh.
Between the games and the apps where you can watch Kourtney eat a Kit-Kat like a woman unwilling to allow herself pleasure, it’s easy to forget that the Kardashians are real people. The amount of attention paid to their every move is on par with the attention paid by British gossip rags to a random marchioness who lost her top in Ibiza. But, social media is a tool for honing the performance of being yourself. An Instagrammed sunset or your feet against some particularly pretty tile is more than just a picture; it’s a calculated move in the personal branding long game. The Kardashians have learned this trick and used it to their advantage. And, like the Kardashians, the way I choose to use my feeds is informed by this thinking, whether I am willing to admit it or not.
My sisters and I don’t have millions of followers who hang on our every move. We have not built a cottage industry around merely existing with the intention of promoting ourselves as a brand. But, when we went on vacation to Miami last year for the first time in our adult lives without parents, we blew up the feed and created a hashtag for our vacation. Every time we find ourselves together and the lighting is particularly pleasant and at least one of us is feeling our look, we pose and grin for Snapchat as if we had legions of fans, not just a handful of people who see our interactions and scroll quickly past them. Despite the evident differences, we see similarities just the same.
When I asked my sisters about which Kardashian they self-identify with, the Kourtney refused to be identified by name. Kim gladly offered both her services as a source and her full name. The youngest sister — a Kendall and Kylie hybrid — took her time to respond. As the Khloe of my group, I already knew my place. It feels redundant to impose boundaries on a group that already exists with clear cut roles. But, as the BuzzFeed quiz boomlet of the early 2010s proved, human beings love categorization. Every generation has its pop culture tropes — images of people onto which you can neatly map out your identity. Any woman knows whether or not she’s a Miranda or a Carrie, a Jo or a Meg, a Michelle Williams or a Kelly Rowland. The Kardashians fulfill this need to find a suitable pop culture paring, but for sisters. It’s a need that I didn’t think existed until I realized that they are actually my best friends, whether I like it or not.
The sister group text that lives on my phone is almost always lit. It is our safe space in which to share valuable information like new jobs, updates on our mother, closeups of photos of each other that we’ve taken in secret and screenshots from Snapchats that we’ve only sent to each other. It is sacred. Between this text, the contents of which will never see the light of day, and our fondness for clogging the feeds of our followers with pictures of each other and Snaps of each other giggling and loving and acting like morons, without shame, our sisterhood is performed.
What sticks out the most about the way the Kardashians use Snapchat is how much they truly like each other. They hang out. They tease each other and yell. It’s nice to see sisters who care about each other as much as I mostly do about mine, but really, it’s refreshing to see the Kardashians acting like human beings. Snapchat humanizes them, scrapes away some of the sheen with a fingernail and reveals the regular skin underneath. At the end of the day, after the Lumee is turned off and the glam team has gone to bed, they’re just family.