Why I Use Snapchat
I am an avid checker of Snapchat; I do not always post a picture to my story or send a selfie to one of my friends; however, at any point in the day, Snapchat can be a touch of the tip of my thumb away: unlock my phone; tap the app; swipe left to check out the stories that people have created; swipe right to see which friends have individually sent me a “snap”; swipe back to the middle and (if I want) I can take a picture of myself and send it to someone in contacts. Snapchat is an incredibly unique social medium: it differs from the other well-known social media sites in that it is based completely on pictures that are directly from a person’s life (not edited into unrealistic quality like Instagram); the snapchatters in a chatter’s contacts are people with whom the chatter actually associates with, and the medium actually inspires an abundance of humorous remarks.
The “My story” aspect of the app is what I consider to be the most innovative part of Snapchat: any picture that I take and simply send to a friend disappears after a certain amount of time (1–10 seconds); however, if I post it to my story, it will be on my story for twenty-four hours before being erased, and I can keep adding pictures to the story throughout the day and thus illustrate what a day in my life is like. Andrew Watts, a teenage blogger on the site, Backchannel, describes a teenager’s use of the “My story” aspect in the context of a party: “You post yourself getting ready for the party, going to the party, having fun at the party, leaving at the end of the party, and waking up the morning after the party on Snapchat” (Watts). On the other well-known photo-based social medium, Instagram, pictures are posted after a large amount of editing has been done to it; the “snaps” that a person posts are taken directly from his or her life without any “touching up.” There is a fair bit of rhetorical value in the use of the story; it tells the tale of a person’s journey throughout a twenty-four hour period and presents the major characteristics of the heroic cycle: the call to action (waking up), the climax of the journey (the events of the day like class, meals, hanging out with friends) and the return to the hero’s home (going back to sleep), almost as if that one particular day was simply plucked from that person’s life and transplanted onto social media (all absent of technological enhancement).
To send and receive snapchats, a person must be friends with another person and vice versa on the Snapchat app; this is not the same as being someone’s friend on Facebook or some other online social medium (that idea of a list of friends is basically just a running tally of all of the people that a person “knows”): when two snapchatters are friends, they both accept each other on the app, and no message can be received by someone who is not that person’s friend (if someone does send a snap to someone who has not accepted him or her, there will be an annoying gray arrow below the recipient’s name that says “pending” next to it until that person accepts the sender). This interplay of messages between snappers and the consent to the interplay is what makes the app so unique; the two users actually communicate with each other and because the camera allows “selfies,” the communication is somewhat face-to-face — a person is not simply messaging a “friend” on Facebook because he or she does not have the second person’s number. For example, I wanted to show my seventeen year-old sister (who is the only family member I have/want to have in my Snapchat friends list) what the major social area for students known as the Student Center or “Stu” at Hofstra University, the college that I am attending, is like, so I angled my phone in a way that allowed me to take a picture of myself with the dining area of the Student Center in the background; I captioned it, “student center” and sent it off to her. In this way, I gave my high school-senior sister a small idea of what college is like for me, and an idea of what it will potentially be for her.
There are several tools that allow for humor on the Snapchat app. One of the tools (I just mentioned it) is the caption ability; it is a thin line of text that allows for about one hundred characters — a witty comment or a joke about the picture can be written — and that can be placed anywhere on the picture; a second tool is the filter section; snappers can swipe left or right on the pictures that they just took and change things like the color scheme (standard, sepia, black-and-white, et cetera) or they can swipe to the date, the time, the temperature, or the speed at which they are travelling for an additional comedic effect. Lastly, there is the illustrator: it allows a person to use his or her finger to draw multi-colored illustrations on whichever picture he or she just took before sending it or posting it to his or her story. Whether the picture is sent off to someone and erased forever after it is opened, or it is posted to a story and left there for twenty-four hours, if a snapper takes time and effort to add a flair of comedy to the photo, usually people will have at least a small laugh when seeing it — that small aspect, the humor, is another part of what makes Snapchat an incredibly unique social medium. Most of the other mediums have a certain reputation attached to each one of them: for example, Facebook has notoriously been the site that children used to post their emotions on (it is now generally considered obsolete); Twitter is where celebrities whine about their problems; Tumblr (an anonymous site) is a safe-haven for the victims of bullying, and Yik Yak (one of the newest additions to the social media realm — also anonymous) is quickly becoming an easier outlet for bullies. Snapchat is not like the extremely happy or extremely sad status updates on Facebook; it does not have the sense of arbitration and almost unwantedness of Twitter, and it is not anonymous like Yik Yak or Tumblr; if the humor is there, from what I have noticed about snappers, people who view those snaps generally appreciate the comedy, and it often adds to the rhetorical value of the sender’s addition to the constant flow of the medium.
Millions of snapchatters utilize Snapchat to post on social media: it is different from other mediums in that it is based completely off of photographs; the people that a person associates with are the people in that person’s contacts, and the medium actually inspires plenty of comedy, unlike many of the other sites. I have personally enjoyed Snapchat, and — while I am not thoroughly engaged (posting and/or sending pictures) in social mediums — it is the medium that I use the most.
Watts, Andrew. “A Teenagers View on Social Media.” Web log post. Backchannel. Google, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.