When I first heard about Snapchat it was from a 20-year old that was using it to “sext” with girls… not really my type of social network seeing as how I’m married and in my 30’s. But this is apparently what all the kids were in to these days. Now I’m sure not every kid out there is using it for “dick pics” or “sexting” (or whatever the kids are calling it these days), but that still didn’t make the appeal any clearer to me. The whole app is built around the fact that the pictures/video/messages disappear after they are read, or viewed for “X” amount of time. Sure, the person on the other end could screenshot the picture, but then the user that sent the photo would get a notification and that would be the end of the pictures (not that it really mattered, since the damage was already done). I definitely see the appeal of wanting to have pictures disappear, but not for the everyday person.
When I take a picture with my phone it’s a picture that I don’t care who sees it. I’m not taking naked pictures and I’m not taking inappropriate pictures, so it’s with that reasoning that I just didn’t understand Snapchat. My philosophy with social media in general is, “Don’t post something you wouldn’t want your mom to see”, and that pertains to everything. Whether it’s a picture, a video, a status update… or whatever else you can post, if you wouldn’t be comfortable with your mother seeing it, it doesn’t belong on the internet. And I’m sure this isn’t how most kids these days approach social media, so it makes sense that Snapchat would be a way for them to communicate with their friends without having to worry about their parents going through their phones. And I get that. As a teenager I didn’t want my parents going through my stuff either, granted it wasn’t a cell phone, but the idea is still there. But how in the world could Snapchat be a multi-billion dollar company on the backs of teenagers wanting to keep things a secret from their parents?
I’m starting to see that there are some features of the service that can be useful to normal users, as well as adults. The main feature that seems to have caught my attention as of late is the “Story” feature. The Story feature allows you to send out a picture or video, up to 10 seconds, that your friends can see for a 24-hour period as many times as they want before it disappears. This is how my minimal time spent using Snapchat is utilized. Sometimes there’s something you see that’s interesting, but might not be interesting enough to post, permanently, to somewhere like Facebook or Instagram, but rather you just thought some of your friends might find it cool enough to check out for a period of time. This is actually nice for me because Instagram is my favorite of all of the social medias, so the less I can clutter it up, the better. I know I don’t like seeing someone post 10 pictures in a row of people at a party on my Instagram feed, but I don’t mind if it shows up in Snapchat and then disappears in a few hours.
I’ve just started dabbling in the Stories myself and still don’t quite know what I’m doing with it all yet, but someone who has caught my interest, and is using it quite well, is one of my favorite YouTube stars, Casey Neistat (@caseyneistat pretty much everywhere). Casey has taken his editorial style YouTube videos into the Snapchat Story world in the form of a daily “vlog” type thing. He didn’t thing he’d have enough interesting things to video blog about every day on YouTube, so instead he sends them out as Snapchat stories throughout the day. It’s extremely raw, but somehow compelling, even though it’s just one dude making videos about himself, his travels, his kid, and his wife. Ironically enough, he even archives them all on a separate YouTube channel if he finds them interesting enough. But it wasn’t his restaurant reviews, or his marathon Stories that compelled me, it was his coverage of what’s happening in Ferguson, MO right now.
While Casey was down in Ferguson with some friends from VICE, he was giving real-time updates on the things that were happening in the streets. It was raw, unedited, and real, something I never ever thought that Snapchat would be used for. He did end up putting together an actual video for his main YouTube channel about his experience there, but it’s not quite the same as knowing that everything he put on Snapchat was happening to him then and there, or at least within the past 24 hours (depending on when you saw it). Hopefully he’ll upload those videos to his Snapchat YouTube channel, but I definitely think he’s on to something here in the way of reporting. I know there’s twitter and Instagram in regards to real-time photos and video, but there’s just something different about the way Snapchat stories present themselves and I hope that more news outlets and media personal start to embrace the media. However, with that said, it’s still very difficult to actually find people to “follow” on the service. Hopefully they roll out some sort of way to find different people to follow in the future, but for now I’m enjoying the intermittent Stories that pop up in my feed.
So while I still don’t quite understand what got Snapchat to be a multi-billion dollar company, I am starting to come around to the fact that it can be used for more than just dick pics. And if anyone else has any recommendations of interesting people I should be following, please let me know in the comments. And feel free to follow me @treding.