Snapchat, the unofficial sexting app where you can send photos and videos that vanish into the cosmos after a few seconds, has grown significantly over the past few years. Its beginning is somewhat of a spicy topic, as the generator of the idea, Reggie Brown, filed a lawsuit against the two people behind the app’s formulation and development, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy (which was settled in September 2014 for an undisclosed amount and Brown was credited with the creation of the idea behind the app). But essentially, Brown came to Spiegel wishing there was a way to send dirty pictures that would disappear and keep one’s reputation from being tarnished. The two needed someone to develop the idea, which would eventually be in the form of an app, so they sought out Bobby Murphy, a recent graduate from their university, Stanford.
At first they had a website where users could upload a picture and send it to others but it was clunky and took too much effort on the part of the user. Spiegel then realized phones have cameras, so why not make it a mobile app? During this time Spiegel presented the idea as a project for one of his courses, and the students who saw the presentation were confused as to why the pictures would disappear wouldn’t you want to view them later or share them with friends?
Now, that seems like a silly question as that is the whole idea behind the app; ephemerality and the ability to send a photo or video to only the people you want to receive it. In the days of inclusiveness and everyone being connected across multiple platforms, Snapchat is the answer to those wishing to connect only with those they want to mainly teens and people just entering their twenties, who are leaving Facebook at an increasing rate and looking for a way to connect with friends without having to deal with others, namely family and acquaintances.
They want something that is exclusive, just like in the days of The Facebook where only college students could access it, and outsiders were not allowed in. Snapchat answered this call, and the app generation has switched over in large numbers; some numbers say there are 100 million active monthly users, but that could be closer to 200 million, and users send 400 million snaps per day. Most of Snapchat’s users are girls, making up around 75% of all users, and a third of teens in the US use the app on their smartphones clearly this is the app parents would want to download if they want to destroy the eversoimportant social lives of their moody children.
The app itself is well developed and with recent updates has become seamless for users; there is no need to activate the camera as when the app opens it is already done for you. If you want to add a user to your contact list, tap the ghost icon, and you can even see who has added you recently. From the main screen, swipe right to view stories, holding your finger on a specific user’s Story to view it. For those unfamiliar to Snapchat, Stories is a feature that allows users to upload photos or videos or a mix of both that stay viewable for 24 hours, rather than simply fading away after one viewing.
Snapchat also created another page called Discover, where you can view media from entertainment institutions and news media, including CNN, ESPN, Comedy Central, National Geographic, and Vice, among others. When you tap on one, like ESPN, for example, you are shown clips of sports events from that day, and even some articles that discuss recent events. They are rather short, but they provide you with some basic information, which is what the
kids are into these days; they don’t want any fluff, just show them the best videos and some snippets from the day. With this feature, Snapchat has delved into an area that its users didn’t anticipate ads. Wasn’t this just an app where I can send funny photos to my friends? What is all of this?? Snapchat wants to make some serious revenue, and with ads mixed in with this media, they can do a whole lot of that. The ads aren’t even that annoying, and you can skip them, just like an ad on YouTube.
Snapchat knows exactly who their users are, and knows as a younger generation they aren’t hooked onto another form of media, unlike their parents and grandparents who have always caught their news on tv. Snapchat doesn’t consider Discover to be a form of social media, as there isn’t a way to like or upvote something to increase its scope, like with Facebook and Reddit; the content creators are the ones who decide what is posted, and Snapchat is using this to attract users and establish itself as an app where people can get the information they want and need. Snapchat is paving the way for media apps and making it clear that traditions are meant to be broken, and in some cases it can be a good thing, for both the consumer and the authority posting the media.
All innovations aside, this app has raised a few questions why do teens and other young users want to send ephemeral media, and how has the social phenomenon of sexting been affected by this app? In a nutshell, teens are behaving like people in their twenties and thirties and sending explicit pictures to one another and using it as a way to explore snap chat sex. Whether they are mature enough for it or not, they will do it, and Snapchat has made it very easy for them to send promiscuous pictures without leaving any breadcrumbs behind. That was the idea that Reggie Brown had, only he was in college and not just finishing his SATs. Of course, this isn’t Snapchat’s fault, as they can’t control who sends what to whom, but this app has created a way for teens to explore their more carnal desires.
Because teens readily bully one another and post embarrassing photos of their peers on social media, this is a way for them to share without anyone getting their hands on it. Since the photos will go away forever, why not send a pic that is a little sexual? Teens don’t just use Snapchat for the sexting, as they most often use it to send goofy pictures or videos to their friends, and they don’t want their friend to capture that and post it on Instagram or Facebook, as this would cause a week’s worth of embarrassment. Those who receive pictures can screencap them, but when this is done the sender gets a notification saying who did the capturing, so it is a deterrent, but there are third party apps that allow sneaky users to capture those photos without the sender knowing.
With ephemeral data users can send anything, whether it is risque or just embarrassing without getting caught doing it, or rather, their friends can’t post it to social media to share it with others not meant to see it. It also creates an informal tone, as the pictures fade away, so they don’t mean anything or carry any weight. Users want to share media with their friends while remaining as informal as possible, but some also want to send a nude picture to their loved one or someone they’re trying to lure in. It is a way to connect with others in a private way, unlike Facebook or Twitter, where everyone sees it.
Although it was originally meant as a way to secretly sext, Snapchat was received by most users as a way to keep in touch with their inner circle and their inner circle only, and it just happened to be an easy and safe way to send sexy pictures to people.
Snapchat’s creator wanted a way to send sexual pictures to others without leaving a paper trail, but developers Spiegel and Murphy have transcended that by creating an informal setting for users to send pictures to friends that are impermanent, and have gone even further by introducing users to media outlets. These two young phenoms are on their way to asserting Snapchat as the goto for the app generation in terms of receiving news and other information. This isn’t a social media app, where content is popularized by likes, but it is an app where content generated by editors and authors is posted for all to view, and it also just happens to be a great place to share a mission impossibleesque selfie.
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