BY ODICHE NWABUIKWU '18
I’ll admit Snapchat and I got off to a rough start. I’m a more traditional social media user, which means that my experience is limited to Facebook (and that one time I tried Twitter three years ago). Plus, I hate having my picture taken, and my friends' pleas could not convince me to get an app that was crafted specifically for that purpose. It seemed that I would never use the app.
One day though, I was bored enough to download the ever-popular Snapchat. And I thought that like with Tinder, I would mess with it for about two days, and delete it before any real regrets could set in. But I ended up liking it. Although the app was infuriatingly hard to navigate at first, I started having fun with it.
Snapchat has Snapchat stories, which show photos or short videos that your followers have posted in the last 24 hours. I liked seeing semi-live updates of what my friends were doing, especially if they lived far away. I could also chat with friends using captioned videos and pictures when words got too boring. And the best part: the filters. Whether I wanted to look like a demon from hell or have a nice sepia background, Snapchat had me covered.
There is nothing particularly remarkable about this set-up. I am pretty sure that most of these features, if not all of them, can be found on other apps. The difference is that on Snapchat, these are the only features you can use. No quick 140 character updates on your status or long political rants when you’re mad. If you want to show something, you’re going to have to show it, in the purest sense. By taking pictures and videos, you can capture aspects of your life. And it is this visual approach that appeals to Snapchat users everywhere. Why type out your feelings and experiences when you can express them visually, in real time?
In its last public blog post on March 29, Snapchat reaffirmed its dedication to promoting real world interaction on the app, “second only to hanging out face-to-face.” In my opinion, this goal really sets it apart from other apps that are starting to focus less on people’s experiences and more on the amount of feedback from those experiences.
The ephemerality of Snapchat is another interesting feature of the app and is unlike other social media platforms, which tend to keep all of your information unless you choose to delete it. Facebook’s infamous “Timehop” feature shows users where they were however many years ago, for example, showing a picture that was taken exactly sev- en years prior, or reminding users of a silly note that was posted on a friend’s wall.
Snapchat, on the other hand, is best known for its fast-paced, disappearing pictures. If you’re sending a private picture to a friend, the photo will remain on their screen for up to 10 seconds or less, depending on your choice. Snapchat stories last only 24 hours before they disintegrate into cyberspace.
At first use, it’s certainly over- whelming. But it’s become part of our generation’s ability to rapidly consume visual information. The fact that users enjoy this is also indicative of our tendency to be unfazed by how quickly things pass, and how ready we are to see more.
Not that Snapchat doesn’t possess its own degree of superficiality that other social media platforms are criticized for; it’s just less prevalent. For example there isn’t the option to “like” or comment. Thus people have more honest reactions to updates, rather than just clicking buttons. The author of the Snapchat story doesn’t have to worry so much about how their information is viewed, because there’s far less outward, shallow judgement made. The fact that things disappear quickly also takes away some of the anxiety about what to post, although some of that might be belied by the fact that you can tell who viewed your Snapchat story.
Overall, I think the arrival of Snapchat has lessened some of the pressures of social media and that’s really important in a society that glorifies the idea of a perfect life.
I like to think of Snapchat as Instagram’s goofier, less pretentious cousin. Not only are there more ways to express yourself and communicate with friends, but you can also do it with less worry about what people will think. And even though it might feel strange at first, I guarantee that you too will be sucked into Snapchat’s real world experience.