Snapchat, Screenshots and the disappearing photo

Ethical implications for Emerging Technologies

How developing technology has affected how we communicate (and the moral issues it has created.)

Given the reach of social media and digital technology in the 21st century, it makes sense that we have created a new ways of communicating including dialects and pictorial languages.

The newest dialect

We have also introduced an aspect of time sensitivity not necessarily imperative to pre — digital age communication, and with that, a new set of moral and ethical obligations that we as digital citizens need to abide by.

These factors implicitly change the way we communicate- for example, we now communicate quickly- ‘lol’, ‘👍🏼’, and ‘💁🏼’ are all perfectly reasonable and sufficient responses to emails or texts, even though they wouldnt have made sense (Or even have been readable) on devices 7 years ago. This is interesting when thinking about Prenskys digital natives, as it points to the continuing evolution of digital communication. One of the most interesting developments in the way we communicate has been the App Snapchat. Basically — Snapchat allows a person to send a picture or video to your contacts that will only stay visable for up to 10 seconds. It has now become a huge part of day to day communication, and has developed so that now filters, following celebrities and snapchat stories are a thing. Revolutionary, right?

Along with this new form of picture communication comes a new set of moral and ethical obligations! As the sender of a snap, we are labouring under the assumption that the receiver will view the picture for their alloted amount of time and play by the rules. But what about Screenshots!? As the receiver of a snapchat photo, we have the ability to screenshot a photo and keep it forever. Does this mean we should? obviously not. But does it mean we do? Absolutely.

What is interesting about this new technology is that it places the responsibility to behave ethically on the receiver of the Snapchat.

“it places the onus to behave properly on the receiver of an image, rather than the sender. By using the app, the sender is signaling that the image is not meant to be saved or copied” (Johnson, 2014)

This highlights the changes in ethics and morals the development of technologies has brought about. As Johnson (2014) suggests, it is now important for us to teach children how practice morally sound behaviour online, not just for us to teach them how to protect themselves.

References :

Johnson, M. (2014, January 6). Gone in Sixty Seconds: The Sociology of Snapchat. Retrieved July 9, 2016, from Media Smarts: Canada’s centre for digital and media literacy,