Several tech pundits, who I generally respect, have decided they need to put their spin on Snapchat, and their spin is largely wrong and obviously not influenced by talking with active users of the service.
After seeing and responding to tweets by @JoshuaTopolsky and @Jason today, I had got to point where I had to write on this issue.
Just like many of the mainstream tech journalists couldn’t understand, and still don’t understand the appeal of Pinterest, they now can’t wrap their minds around posting a picture that will be gone in 12 seconds. These writers will shoot down someone who doesn’t understand the intricacies of their own beat, but they are fine putting a one word label on SnapChat: sexting.
Everything doesn’t needs to be permanent
The holidays presented opportunities to talk to active Snapchat users, and while I wouldn’t expect them to talk about their own unsavory use, they wouldn’t mind expressing gossip around Snapchat or anything else. And there wasn’t any. Many of their friends are using the service, and they are using it at a rate that is similar to sending texts. Snapchat lets them document their life with quick (2-3 seconds to share) photos, and they do it all the time.
Some journalists have done a good job explaining these motivations including actual talking to users.
A piece by J.J. Colao was one of the first to document the motivation for SnapChat use:
Snapchat then, is an effort to bring that fun back into the digital world. Users can take the ugliest, silliest, most compromising photos they want, usually in the form of a “selfy” or a self-taken picture of oneself. After sending them to friends, those photos then disappear, forever, in 1-10 seconds. It’s private, instant and fleeting, more an extension of texting than a social network rival to Instagram. “The main reason that people use Snapchat is that the content is so much better,” Spiegel says. “It’s funny to see your friend when they just woke up in the morning.”
Jordan Crook wrote in TechCrunch about his sister’s use.
My sister was 14 when the iPhone came out, first got on Facebook at age 13. Unlike myself, her friends have had smartphones (and have been taking pictures with them) throughout their entire high school (and now college) career. And many of them are now documented neatly on her Timeline.
The pressure to maintain an appropriate, attractive presence on the Internet has weighed on me since college. It’s been with her for her entire life.
This is the difference between the people writing about Snapchat and the people using it.
My sister is one of the biggest Snapchat users I know, and the pictures she sends me of herself are awful. That’s not the usual for her. She’s 19, and will force our family to stand in 100-degree weather for hours to get the perfect shot of her smile.
The snaps she sends me could be called ugly — her on the porch, in the dark, with a goofy look on her face. If she was posting this on Facebook, or Instagram, or even sending it to me on MMS, it wouldn’t be the same picture. It wouldn’t be so ugly.
But there’s an intimacy that comes with Snapchat that makes those pictures safe, and much more enjoyable than seeing yet another perfect picture of my sister on Facebook. I see her as she really is.
Did we not learn from, “Who wants to read what you had for breakfast”?
Twitter makes no sense until it does. But even Twitter is not about creating long term content. Do you really think that many people are going back and reading your tweets from an hour ago? Or that even a popular tweet will be read in a couple days? Twitter continues to be about the moment, and Snapchat is an extension of that idea.
Get outside of your own head.
I get where the labeling pundits are coming from. I barely have time to tweet and having the time to create a full blog post seems like a luxury. But I am not a tween or teenager. If I am going to take the time to take a picture or write something, I want the value of it for myself and others to last more than 12 seconds. But that doesn’t mean I am going to force my own lifestyle assumptions on the younger generation. They have time; they have technology.
The fact that Facebook’s Poke app is falling down the app charts almost as fast as it went up in nothing new. New generations want their own service. They want to differentiate. They sure as hell don’t want their new thing to be associated with Facebook. The early adopter and the adult Facebook crowd don’t have time for Snapchat, and I think the kids are more than fine with that.
A use case is not THE use case.
Snapchat is used for sexting. So is SMS (where the term comes from), email, Twitter and Facebook. Jason Calicanus wrote a whole blog post about the dangers of Snapchat and sharing nude pictures. Yeah, it isn’t smart to share revealing pictures that can be captured permanently, but this behavior will happen with or without Snapchat. There needs to be education around the topic. But when Calicanus claims the only use case for Snapchat is sexting, that is flat out wrong, and it clouds the water for any real discussion. The number of pictures being shared on SnapChat leads to every indication that this more of a fun, life blogging app.
I don’t have the time for frequent Snapchat use and likely never will, but I am not yet the old man who blindly yells from his porch, “KIDS THESE DAYS”. Nor am I the person who can only think of one use case (that happens to be sexual) and then put that motivations on millions of kids using this app.