I wrote about Snapchat in April 2013. That post discussed how it was in many ways the antithesis to Facebook, because by design it urged people to share a more genuine representation of themselves with their friends. Having spent more time using Snapchat since then, and seeing an increasing number of friends become active on the service, my belief from April has only be reinforced. I want to detail three observations from my personal experience using Snapchat that I think makes it compelling for so many users.
1) Loose connections become strengthened through Snapchat. I have many friends in my contacts from different times in my life- high school, college, post-college, who I’m not as close with as I used to be. Everyone has these kinds of relationships with different people from various periods in their lives. We don’t text or email anymore, and our interaction is often limited to a “happy bday, hope all is well!” wallpost every year. Snapchat has changed that. I am friends with those people on Snapchat. When I take a picture I usually end up sharing it with almost everyone on my list, and many of my connections do the same. With just one snap everyday, or several snaps over the course of a week, we begin to form a stronger connection. I now have insight into what their lives are like today. Where they go, what they do, who they spend time with, and even how they are doing. In return, through my pictures, these recently fading friendships are once again becoming closer. It is easier to text someone, or email them to catch up once you have some context about what they are doing, or the benefit of a simple ice breaker after many years of limited interaction. This was a benefit I didn’t envision when I started using Snapchat, but I am pleasantly surprised to be able to reconnect with several old friends.
2) I rarely share pictures on Facebook anymore, only occasionally when I share one through Instagram into FB. I post to Instagram no more than ten times a month. With many of my friends I still want to be able to share moments from my day, especially interesting/funny things I encounter. Taking a picture, deciding who to send it to, creating an email, or individual texts is far from frictionless. Snapchat makes it easy, take the picture, add some text for context, or as the punchline to a joke, and to choose all the people I want to share it with. It is mass sharing on a 1:1 level made simple.
3) I have unique view into my friends’ lives that I never had before. For the most part people share FB/Instagram pictures of exciting, special, beautiful, artistic (in their minds) moments. Snapchat allows me to see them boared at work, exhausted after a run at the gym, stuck in traffic, sick in bed, and countless other everyday mundane moments. I think those mundane moments in a way are more special, and more intimate, because until Snapchat came along, they were rarely shared with others.
The magic of technology is it’s ability to bring you closer to who/what you care about in the world. By that definition Snapchat has been magical for me.