It’s probably not something I should admit as a social media worker, and maybe it’s my advancing years, but today I’m saying it loud and proud: I do NOT get Snapchat.
It’s not that I don’t understand how to use it, I get the function; Snapchat is a multimedia messaging service that has the unique operation of automatically deleting the photo or video after a certain amount of time (10 second maximum). You have to hold your finger on screen to view the message (which to be frank, I find obnoxious), which can contain videos and pictures with doodles, captions, and stickers. After the time is up, the file is gone and you’re left with the an unsatisfied feeling and the option to send one back. Of course, it was in recent news that these photos are not actually erased from the server entirely; people were outraged, torches were carried, I drank tea.*
It’s become very popular among teenagers and is even replacing Facebook as the standard social media system for that generation, but this mobile-only application got its roots as a safe, seedy way for people to send, er, intimate photos to each other. This messaging service has grown into something that can be referred to as a social media platform, and here’s where you lose me.
I accept social media; someone puts out some content that gets lumped into a news feed with other content of other people you know. It creates a page that you can scroll through, and leaves you the option to read, skim, or ignore – no one is forcing you to read or see any of it, but it’s there if you want it. The average social media news feed is about as enriching as a tabloid; it’s something to read, it’s very mildly entertaining, and it’s something to do that keeps me in touch. However I wouldn’t want TMZ to send me texts every time a celebrity eats lunch or buys boots, and that’s how I feel about Snapchat. Someone expressly sends these photos to me, with the sole purpose of me viewing them, and I care far less about someone I went to college with 5 years ago showing me a picture of their desk for 10 seconds with the caption “TGIFFFF”. I didn’t say “show me their lunch” or “morning coffee” because actually, the majority of what I receive is somehow less interesting than that. It’s so boring it’s almost offensive. If you had a funny moment with your friend or took a good photo at a concert, I understand wanting to share that; but I’ve received photos of smashed food on the ground, dark rooms, and close-ups of strangers’ spotty faces. This isn’t quality content people, this is a reason to question our friendship.
Then there’s the obvious revelation that made me stop using Snapchat altogether; we’ve had MMS capabilities for a decade. We can send photos to each other whenever we want. And now I do.
Although, it does make sense for teenagers. They spend all day every day with the same people and they’re very cliquy at that age, where inside jokes are king. Snapchat allows them to send content to just those people involved without necessarily posting it on a public platform such as Facebook or Twitter (which they will also do). Maybe teenagers have the right idea. Instead of an anonymous field of people you haven’t talked to since prom, you have a small group who you communicate with more and maybe those are the people who go with you through life. That’s one way of looking at it.
Either way, I will never be able to accept Snapchat as my own, and I’m okay with having at least one platform that leaves me going “youth these days”
PS – I feel the same way about other messaging services such as WhatsApp – these are IM apps, not social media platforms.
*If there is one thing I cannot stress enough while using social media, it is that privacy is a privilege, not a right. You are putting elements of your life into the public eye and using someone else’s system to do so. If you want full privacy, simply don’t use it.