“Once again wasting your time on SnapShot!” is a commonly heard sentence in my family.
After I explain to my mom that it is actually called Snapchat and not SnapShot, she asks me why this social media platform is so popular.
As a frequent Snapchat user, I got to thinking: Why do we love Snapchat so much? And how come it is the one form of social media that marks a clear divide between parents and their children?
For parents, Snapchat is an obscure social media platform; as a cross between a regular private message and “traditional” public social media, it does not seem necessary to them. But with 100 million people using it daily (according to the Directory of Social Network, App and Digital Stats), Snapchat is clearly an important platform, attracting more people every day.
For most teenagers, using Snapchat is a part of the daily routine: trying on the day’s new filters and sending snaps to all your best friends to keep your streaks going is for many teens a normal thing.
“I love telling a story and sharing the quirky things that I see in my day-to-day life,” a recent graduate from the University of Florida says.
The numbers prove that the appeal of the app among young people is real: 60 percent of the high school class of 2015 have said they use the app daily, according to Digital Media Research. From my 25-year-old cousin to my 13-year-old sister, most young people around me use Snapchat, but how can we explain this phenomenon?
First, Snapchat allows young people to stay in contact with all our friends, and can be especially useful in the summertime, when we are far away from each other, interning, working, travelling or being with our families. As an international student going to college in America, I have found Snapchat especially useful for staying in touch with all my friends back home. When I came home after six months spent on the other side of the world, my friends and I felt like, because we had been watching each other’s stories, we were still a part of one another’s life.
“But why can’t you just send a normal message?” my parents ask. Maybe it’s because our generation likes to do a lot of things, and to do them fast. Think about it. Why take the time to write a whole message detailing your life – which you have to do with adults – when you could just take a quick picture of you doing something, add a caption, and be done. This fast-paced social media allows us to always be “present” in our friend’s life, and unlike other social media, is not very time consuming.
“It’s just a very chill social media to have fun with your friends,” says April, 16, a student at Cheektowaga Central High School.
In addition to connecting us to our friends, Snapchat helps us to be more connected to the world around us. The “discover” part of the app highlights numerous media and events.
For example, when I look at my “discover” now, I can see people around the world talking about the Euros Game, the new Pokemon Go phenomenon and Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Snapchat is a new way for teenagers to easily find information.
“It makes me care more about the things that are happening in the world,”says Jack, 18, a rising sophomore at University at Buffalo.
Adults also don’t understand why we like the fact that Snapchat messages disappear.
“Why would you take the time to produce something if it’s going to disappear anyway?” they ask.
But this fleeting aspect is exactly what is appealing in Snapchat, because there is no pressure to take the perfect picture, add a filter, and find a witty caption like on Instagram, and there is no need to count the number of “likes,” like on your Facebook profile picture. You can just be you.
Snapchat is the most genuine of social media platforms, because there are no “likes,” no followers, no “retweets,” no number of friends to worry about. It is just you and your close friends having fun and nothing else.
“It’s nice that there is no pressure about it, you just give people a glance at what’s happening in your life without having to deal with ‘likes’ or comments,” April says.
But Snapchat, like other social media apps, also has some flaws, especially if you are not careful with it. Even though it looks like (and in most cases is) a friendlier and more low-pressure social media app, it does not come without risks. It is possible for others to take screenshots of any picture you send either privately or on your “story,” and it is also possible to replay snaps that have been sent previously.
Users have to understand that no picture on Snapchat will magically disappear once it is sent. This is why it is important to be very careful about what you send and who you send it to.
“It’s a great app but it can also be very dangerous, it’s all about how you use it,” says April.
Jack also worries that it could threaten real-life interactions: “It’s convenient, but it bothers me sometimes how less important face-to-face interactions have become,” he says.
Like any social media, Snapchat can be dangerous, but as long as you use it responsibly, maybe you parents will understand that it’s not all bad.
Zoe Chevalier is a student at Williams College.