Dear parents: It’s not over yet. While the length and longevity of communication grew smaller and required less commitment as we moved from written letter to electronic email to tweets in only 140 characters, now there is this. Snapchat.
Developed by a few Stanford students in late 2011, Snapchat is a photo messaging application whose appeal is its lack of sustain. Here’s how it works: you open the app, snap a photo, draw on the photo or add a message, select who receives the photo from your list of Snapchat friends, and hit send.
At first blush, this seems identical to other photo apps — except at first blush is exactly what the creators of Snapchat are promoting. You see, the sender decides the length of time the recipients can view the photo before it disappears forever, which ranges from one second to ten seconds. It’s this very lack of duration that inspires Snapchat’s prompt, “Snap an ugly selfie!”
Their philosophy continues:
The image might be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that’s the point. It’s about the moment, a connection between friends, and not just a pretty picture. It’s not all about fancy vacations, sushi dinners, or beautiful sunsets. Sometimes it’s an inside joke, a silly face, or greetings from a pet fish.
Communication is more entertaining when it’s with the people who know us best. And we know that no one is better at making us laugh than our friends. Great conversations are magical. That’s because they are shared, enjoyed, but not saved.
Let’s review, shall we? Snapchat is marketed to kids who now have little patience with communication as laborious as 140 characters. Snapchat’s lack of archival permanence prompts kids to send photos of themselves and things they otherwise wouldn’t send, fostering a lack of image accountability.
Except not quite. You see, there is a troubling workaround to this notion that the Snapchat image disappears in a period of time designated by the sender, and it’s this: The recipient can screen capture the image.
Yes the sender of the Snapchat photo receives an alert whenever someone has saved one of your images to their device, but there’s no controlling who decides to make your fleeting moment permanent.
The implications are clear, surrounding the notion that the images we intend to be temporary are not, which supports the fear that Snapchat will be used for sending photos of body parts, otherwise known as greetings from a pet fish.
But perhaps it’s more troubling that there is a societal divide between Facebook — the digital storehouse for lasting, fake, edited and best-foot-forward photos of our spectacular lives — and our desire to keep our more truthful images impermanent.