It took three false starts with Snapchat before I finally got the hang of it and became one of its biggest fans.
My first attempt lasted about thirty seconds, or, three times the life span of Snapchat’s ephemeral content. I downloaded the app and accidentally took a picture of my knee. Not knowing what to do next with the photo fail, I closed out of the app and deleted it from my phone. Stupid ghost.
The second time I tried to figure it out, I was on a date. We were talking about apps and I mentioned my frustration with my inability to use Snapchat. He patiently walked me through it in the noisy bar but I wasn’t following any friends, nor were they following me, so we couldn’t complete the process of creating, editing, and sharing a snap — AKA a photo or video. Like a teenager storming off to his bedroom defeated, I again deleted the app from my phone.
The third time was only slightly better. A friend at work asked me if I was on Snapchat. I groaned and gave her a look. She took pity and also gave me a crash course. I took a photo, added copy, a filter, but was disorientated when it came to swiping as the sole way of navigating the app. My brain wanted actual navigation icons. I kept making the ghost rave and pulled down the notifications screen on my iPhone a half dozen times. It was a disaster. Now I felt old and defeated.
Refusing to become my parents muttering profanity when they couldn’t set the time on the VCR, I spent a night reading everything I could on Snapchat. I added some close friends, family, and gave it another shot. Finally, it clicked. I was young again. Thank fucking God.
Snapchat has since become my favorite social app and where I spend the majority of my time. Here’s why.
Snapchat Lives In The Present
The snaps on Snapchat are ephemeral, lasting only ten seconds. Your “story” — a collection of snaps — lasts for 24 hours. Snapchat doesn’t retain everything I’ve ever said, every place I’ve ever been to, or every shitty photo someone took of me at a party and insists on posting even though I’ve asked them not to. It’s about fun moments captured quickly and shared. It’s about what’s happening now. In a conversation with Katie Couric for Vanity Fair, Evan Spiegel explains, “You were left with a memory, but not necessarily a transcript.” Snapchat is not a personal archive of my life. I’m someone who lives in the present so this works for me.
Snapchat Feels Intimate
Because Snapchat isn’t the social media leviathan Facebook has become, there’s no pressure to “friend” everyone I’ve ever met. A majority of the people I know aren’t on it, and that’s what I like about it. The pressure of letting people I’ve just met into my world doesn’t exist here as it does with Facebook. I’m sharing with close friends and family, people who know me very well. People who aren’t going to be put off by my left of center sense of humor or the sucker punch way I can turn a phrase. Like a small party with close friends, it feels fun and intimate.
Snapchat Forces Me To Be Creative
Snapchat offers a limited amount of photo and video editing tools. This forces me to find new ways to be creative with my snaps. Doubling up on filters, using text, emojis, or combinations of both, you’d be surprised at how creative you can be with a limited set of tools. But that’s the point. I’m not creating masterpieces here. I’m creating annotated moments. In a way it reminds me of the early days of videos on MTV. People made some cool shit with what little was available.
Snapchat Doesn’t Farm My Data
Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel was recently interviewed at Cannes Lions by Joanna Coles, editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, and the discussion turned to the common practice of tech companies farming their users’ data to yield targeted ads. That’s not his thing. “We care about not being creepy. That’s something that’s really important to us,” he said.
If I choose to turn on my location tracking in Snapchat, it’s to unlock location-based filters for my snaps, and not to yield advertisements or sales at nearby businesses. The filters change depending on where I am. Snapchat uses my data in a way that improves my experience rather than degrade it.
The thing I like most about Snapchat is that it has brought some fun back to social media for me. It’s not about networking, or acquiring tons of friends, or anything else of major importance. It’s about sharing quick moments in life as they happen, in a way that’s creative, with the people close to me.
An Unlikely Snapchat Adopter [Medium, Snapchat Strategy]