After an overuse of Snapchat for the past few years of my life, I decided to delete the application to observe my behavior when lacking the social media platform.
Before we begin, what is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a social media application created in July 2011 that now has over 190 million users worldwide. The platform allows its users to share pictures and videos via a visible “story” for 24 hours but the most enticing to users is the ability to send privately to the people of your choosing text messages, vocal messages, images and videos that will disappear after a short period. The initial version of the app would only allow the users to see the photos, the most popular type of messages, for 10 seconds (which can now be modified, thanks to the recent update). Every “snapchat” sent and received will count towards your score. Finally, the magical touch that makes Snapchat unique is “the streak”. This odd concept created by the 3 formers Sandford students starts when 2 people communicate for more than 3 days in a row via any type of messages. A number will show up next to the users’ names which will increase by one for every day they communicate within the same 24 hour period. On top of being addictive due to its fun concept of sharing content digitally without saving it, the streak is for many the main reason why they why they utilize this application. As of today, the company is valued at more than 18 Billion dollars.
Some personal insight:
· Today I spend about 1 hour/day on Snapchat on average (a lot less than what I used to in 2016/2017)
· I pick up my phone to look at Snapchat 30 times/day on average.
· My Snapchat “score” is over one Million.
· My biggest “streaks” are around 700 days.
I would also like to specify to the French readers that the social norms around Snapchat are different in North America compared to Europe. The users have different expectations from the platform and behave differently when using the app.
(Coming soon “Cultural differences in platform usage”)
Why do younger people use Snapchat?
According to Snapchat Inc., in the USA, the platform reached, “90% of all 13-24-year-olds” and “75 percent of all 13-34-year-olds”. Another interesting fact is that users older than 25 visit Snapchat approximately 8 less times a day (12 times per day), than younger users (20 times per day).
So, can we conclude that as we get older, Snapchat becomes less attractive? I believe so.
Snapchat is a great way to expand your circle while still having protection: your devices’ screen. Sending a “snap” to someone is easier than going up to the person in real life to have a face to face conversation. It gives users the best chances to show their best selves. In today’s society, especially in the teenage community people “would rather text than talk” according to the cultural analyst Sherry Turkle. The reason behind this comfort of texting is that users can control every aspect of that virtual conversation.
By using the platform regularly, users get to create what I call a “digital image” that others see via “story” or daily communication to maintain their “streaks”. Users have near limitless options when creating their digital persona. Options range from astonishing filters, videos, and images of only the best moments in their day. What it essentially does is allowing users to create an avatar of themselves self which they will only be made of superficial but perfect criteria.
Another reason why it is so popular within the teenager community is that society promotes the use of the platform. The idea of having the best digital image possible on Snapchat (looking the best, doing lots of fun activities or having the longest streaks with most people) is perceived as a success for many. For some users, it becomes a competition of who has the best (digital) life.
Finally, deeper down, I believe that Snapchat is a necessity for young people as it was for me because it helps with self-esteem in the short term. It simply facilitates conversation and as a result, allows the users to communicate with more people. It brings a feeling of comfort to be able to connect with a larger crowd. Furthermore, it creates a sense of importance by digitally being a part of someone else’s day through the sharing of “snaps”.
The hidden impacts
I recently realized that my usage of the application wasn’t healthy. I communicated on Snapchat with people I didn’t talk to in real life; it impacted my mood drastically and I cared so much about staying in touch virtually with other users that I asked friends to log in on the platform to maintain my own “streaks” when I wasn’t able to connect in a 24 hours interval. Spending roughly one hour on the application was also one of my problems; its concept is once again very addictive and time-consuming. It was a cycle. I would wake up every day to the many snaps of my friends sharing the uneventful events they were going through via images and videos. As of my responses; they would be textless selfies to stay in virtual contact.
I like to think about one of all adults’ favorite sentence “put your phone away”. Being on Snapchat takes away the pleasure of “living in the moment” and enjoying the full potential of the event currently taking place. We have all seen the smartphones up in the air recording a concert, or the guests recording the “Happy Birthday” song at a party, etc. It becomes a competition of who will have the “coolest” videos or images to associate with their digital image. In these moments, my digital image was more important than my favorite singer in concert performing right in front of me or even more important than my sister’s 9th birthday …
The last impact I want to discuss is how Snapchat isn’t a true reflection of reality which can alter people’s self-esteem if they aren’t constantly aware of that matter. By only displaying what the user desires, his or her full reality isn’t shown to others on the platform. Seeing daily reminders of how much others have fun or how they look the best, for some users, it negatively affects their self-esteem. It can also create anxiety, this perfect but altered reality on Snapchat becomes a standard that can be stressful to keep up with. A side effect of the overuse of the platform I believe became more present in the teenage community in recent years is the “FOMO”: the Fear of Missing Out. This medical condition comes from the anxiety that something better might be happening elsewhere and without you. So as a result, the user stays connected for an extended period of time to make sure he or she doesn’t “miss out on anything”. According to a survey conducted by MyLife.com, 56% of people are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks.
Living without Snapchat
Yes, it is possible.
The cycle of having Snapchat being a part of your daily routine is inconceivably hard to break. I decided to log out of the platform but to maintain the app on my phone to observe the number of times I would click on it as a reflex. Without any notification coming in from the app or a need to communicate with someone in particular, I still clicked on the icon about 5 to 8 times/day. My subconscious was drawn to this yellow logo even though I knew I wasn’t logged in.
Maybe one or two days after I decided to stop using the platform I even received a text message asking me, and I quote: “Are you ok? Why don’t you snap anymore?”. The routine of keeping up with streak had become my only way of communication with some of my friends to the point that it would be considered abnormal if I did not reply. It had become a necessity for some of my friends to be informed of what my daily adventures were.
The absence of the platform gave me more time for other projects, like writing this article for example. It allowed me to spin out of the daily selfies and pictures sent that I would categorize as a “divulgence of information” rather than conversations. It also enabled me to communicate only when I had the desire to. I wasn’t obligated to share any part of my day or to communicate with someone to keep a streak going. This freedom was a relief.
Finally, I felt lonelier. First I felt alone not receiving constant notifications on my phone of people sharing content until I embraced it. I realized that being alone is not a problem to be solved. I comprehended that when by yourself it is not a necessity to be connected digitally.
Snapchat is an amazing platform with the potential to bring people together. It is a revolutionary concept that reflects the increase of digitalization in our society. People should use the app to socialize.
I would recommend any users to think about the way they utilize the platform and would advise them to stay in control. Users need to value the quality of the connections they have with each other rather than the number of connections that can easily become superficials. The decisions we make regarding Snapchat have repercussions in our everyday life, and the negative impacts are not always simple to recognize.
Sources: snap.com / gobankingrates.com /prnewswire.com