HAVING been desperately over-exposed on social media since before the term existed, I’m reasonably resistant to jumping on the latest bandwagon.
I don’t enjoy giving another company piles of information about myself to be commodified and sold to unknown agents, which may not wish me well at all.
But last week Snapchat overtook Twitter for daily users (meaning people actually using it as opposed to creating an account, hating it, and never darkening its door again, which is the response of sane human beings to many of these networks).
While I’ll vigorously defend myself from slanderous accusations of being a social media expert (I’ll grudgingly accept my expertise, but refute the guilt by association), this was too big a threshold to ignore.
So I downloaded the app, fed in enough personal information to allow for identity theft and, as is the way of these things, stared into the void.
Social networks only work when you make connections.
The next step is to dob in every human who’s been foolish enough to make contact with you in the past.
This leads to angry accusations from family and friends asking why you’re trying to sign them up to another bloody personal information aggregator.
One of these is a good friend who is a fellow communication professional.
“What the hell are you? A 14-year-old girl?” he sneered.
“Snapchat’s overtaken Twitter for daily users,” I replied.
Ten minutes later he was sending me pictures on Snapchat. We’ve taken to drawing penises on pictures, but thankfully so far refrained from taking pictures of such things.
So what is it? At the heart of it, you can take pictures and easily add some real fun editing them, then send them to specific people or all your contacts and, after two three-second viewings, they delete themselves.
Of course there are always numerous ways of circumventing the deletions, but it does at least offer some peace of mind that a one-time friend won’t use an image against you years in the future.
A problem for Facebook is that young people don’t want their parents seeing everything they do, and a problem for Twitter is that only a few sociopaths want the whole world seeing everything they do. Snapchat allows for a sense of discretion and control, while still creating a sense of sharing.
It will never get the fawning media coverage of Twitter because, unlike Twitter, a watching media aren’t able to monitor it and re-use the content (which is a plus for the users).
Having been on Snapchat for a week I’m now attuned to the large number of people around me who are using it.
It’s silly, it’s fun, it feels safe, it makes expression and creativity simple and effective.
It’s not going to directly change political discourse and its appeal is that it’s very hard for campaign managers and marketers to get to you.
Making sense of it all is going to give government spooks conniptions. What does that panda face morph selfy with a dick drawn on it mean about the sender’s feelings towards the government?
But, at an unconscious level, that might well be all the appeal it needs.
(At the time of writing I’ve received no naked selfies. I’m okay with that. Seriously, don’t send me that stuff.)