Snapchat, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Snap (MCS10)

Have you tried the new app, Snapchat yet?

Record scratch.

Wait a minute.

Hold your horses.

Lori Packer reminded us that Snapchat is anything BUT new. Released in 2011, this app joined the world the same year as Pinterest, Google+ and Siri. “It’s not as new as we think it is,” said Packer, adding that it’s also a huge platform, with already more active users than Twitter (150 million+). If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, it’s a messaging app that allows you to send photos/videos (with our without your doodles and captions!) to one or many.

Perhaps the perception of newness is because the quick-multi-media-messaging app is still a bit misunderstood by many of, ahem, a certain age range. She brought up the ol’ Douglas Adams rules of technologies, number three of which is: “Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” She also reminded us that “people born at different times live on this Earth simultaneously” and that, for her, means that sometimes she can teach and sometimes she can learn. In the case of Snapchat, she decided to learn.

She said she’d “brush the old off me” and give it a try. And in this session she shared her results, with a bit of self-deprecating humor, too. (For example, through a first-person video, she took us through her exploration of the user-interface which is so often called completely UN-user-friendly, complete with the usual swear words you might expect when hitting a wrong button.) But after some trial and error — and much Googling — she figured things out and started snapping.

Packer made an interesting point about the UI: it’s perhaps not intuitive for a reason. Why, you ask? Discoverability. Part of the adventure of the unknown is trying things out and seeing what works; she likened this to video games. There’s a bit of joy in figuring things out on your own, but Snapchat also has to balance that with frustration some users might feel without such hard documentation. In her presentation, though, she shared her discoveries with us so we didn’t have to, well, swear so much.

So, why Snapchat? Packer listed a few reasons:

  • Visual
  • Personal
  • Ephemeral
  • Compelling
  • Fun Factor

Perhaps what makes Snapchat so different from its social peers is the ephemeral nature — snaps and stories disappear once you see them. She also likes the fact that there’s “no response required.” What she means is that there’s not urgency or pressure to reply to snaps; recipients can simply watch and move on.

Packer also pointed out that growth of Snapchat use by higher education institutions is growing. An mStoner survey about social media use showed 5 percent using it in 2015; this year, the number rose to 15 percent. Some example uses she cited included West Virginia University’s Takeover Tuesdays (including one week where the president ran with the day’s Snaps) and a moving Black History Month set of stories by Michigan. She also added that CASE’s directory of Snapchat schools has grown significantly.

Aside from an overview of how the platform works, she shared a Vox video that explains how Snapchat’s facial recognition works.

“[Snapchat is] fun, but not funny. It’s serious business,” she said of the technology that powers those features that give your friends flower leis, dog noses, and buggy eyes. Digital cameras have been using this for years to put squares on faces, she added — but where will the future take us with facial recognition? Packer made a good point that fun apps like these will get us comfortable with whatever advancements come our way in other aspects of our lives.

[To learn more about Snapchat, here’s a quick overview courtesy of Explainer.]

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc