Snapchat is everywhere. I was recently working on a musical that had dozens of high school aged kids whom I saw sending these photo messages incessantly. The concept should be perfect, an app that allows you to send pictures that people cannot save and automatically disappear forever after the set number of seconds. Tweens everywhere can finally send naked photos without having to worry that they will “end up on the internet or on some creeps wall” as their parents warned. Knowing that a picture will delete automatically after it is viewed allows the users of the app to feel less pressure to think about what they are putting out into the world. Initially I used the app and mostly just took pictures of my goofy face on the commuter rail telling my friends I was on my way into Boston. I was intrigued by this fun new way to stay in touch, but it wasn’t long before I stopped using it altogether.
The only people I still get pictures from are three friends who send out mass messages to their entire contact list. There is nothing personal about them and a lot of the time I don’t even understand what it is I’m looking at.My thought when I receive a message now is, “Do I really know her well enough to be getting a picture of her sent personally to my phone?” Why would I want to see a blurry picture of a stage at a concert attended by a girl I interned with for one month? Although I shouldn’t knock the pictures I get of a cat belonging to a guy I met twice in college; those are real gems.
Each message is something straight out of an episode of Inspector Gadget where his missions would explode after he’d read them once. Nothing I have ever been sent has been important or interesting enough to warrant that kind of dramatic removal. How would it be worse or even dramatically different to text me a photo the regular way?
I think the thing that bugs me most is that the app alludes to safety when sending naughty pics, which isn’t true or even a good thing to feel comfort in. The scary part is that apparently if someone is quick enough they can take a screen shot of what was shown to them. So that thing which was originally intended to exist for five seconds is now saved. A majority of all messages sent on Snapchat are of the sexual variety, it has a reputation for being a means of “safe sexting”. I almost threw up in my mouth a little just typing that pun out.
Why put something into the world that doesn’t change it or make it better? Maybe I’m holding this digital social interaction to an outrageous standard but I cannot find the upside to this. So many incredible artistic expression have come out of technological advances. Thousands of people (and cats) have seen success on youtube by showcasing their talents and once posted the whole world can see. Filming a clever Vine video or taking a stunning picture to post on Instagram is a fast way to be seen. All these programs have a way for people to comment, “like” and review what they are seeing. That is healthy for creativity. I put more effort into my writing when I know people can take the time to read it and possibly reread it. Say there was a program where I could write something and send it to someone, but they only had a certain amount of time to skim through it before it was gone. I wouldn’t work to get out the minor kinks, searching for excessive adverbs, passive verbs and second person. But when it is gone, has my intended audience benefitted? Have I?
This was never meant to be a medium for creativity to thrive, so I ask then: what is the point?