Snap, Inc., the parent company that spawned the immensely popular social media app, Snapchat, made its New York Stock Exchange debut on March 2. Since then, the value of its stock has soared, and the value of the two founders of the company, Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, has risen to three to four million a piece — more money than Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered them when he attempted to buy the app in 2013. Snapchat has only been around for about six years, but according to recent surveys, is far surpassing other social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter in popularity, especially with the younger generations. I believe the reason for that is the growing need in our culture to live only in the moment, and not necessarily think about things before we do them. We don’t want to take responsibility for things unless we choose to and Snapchat is the perfect vehicle for that kind of an attitude, with the longest lifespan of anything shared on the app being 24 hours.

When I describe Snapchat to someone who doesn’t have it, I usually start with “it’s like texting with just pictures,” but that’s not entirely accurate. Text messages are saved on the devices of both parties and will only disappear if manually deleted. Snapchat is unique because snaps sent from one person to another can last a maximum of 10 seconds before they are gone from your reach forever. At first glance, one would find the appeal of such an app surprising — isn’t the whole point of taking pictures to preserve memories of something or someone? Sure, one can screenshot snaps, but that in itself is somewhat of a taboo, except among close friends. After all, the whole point of the app is that things on it will not and should not be saved. Other social media outlets, such as Facebook, do exactly the opposite. Their popularity revolves around features that allow people to take, save and share photos, videos and status updates with a community of handpicked friends and family members, and have them remain on one’s page unless deleted by the user. Snapchat doesn’t provide that kind of service at all, but has managed to become just as popular and now more so than these outlets who do.

I think that Snapchat’s popularity, especially among my generation, can be attributed to our desire to keep many of our “moments” from being remembered. We don’t necessarily want to make a photo album about the party that we went to or post every single embarrassing picture that we take with our friends for the world to see forever. We don’t want to go back over it years, months, weeks or even the next day and cringe, asking ourselves, “What was I thinking?” Looking from a wider perspective reveals that perhaps we want to live without having to deal with the lasting effects of our decisions. The problem is that it is impossible. Snapchat simply feeds into our fantasy of having our decisions no longer matter after 24 hours or less. Real life doesn’t work that way. Maybe our Snapchat story disappears, along with the questionable or embarrassing content, but people who were there and saw what happened in person will still remember. We can’t erase everyone’s memory in 24 hours or less and we certainly can’t erase our own.

To some extent, it’s good to be wary of what we post, especially in a world where one’s social media can be scoured by potential employers. Snapchat gives us an alternative way to share things in a community just for fun that won’t be permanently on our record. Nonetheless, I think that it’s worth thinking about why an app that gives us no responsibility over our posts and messages is becoming far more popular than those that do, and what it has to say about the mindset of our current generation.

To be clear, I don’t have a problem with Snapchat, having personally sent 16,969 snaps and counting — and I certainly don’t intend to give it up any time soon, nor do I think anyone should. Indulge in the fantasy — snap and have them disappear in 10 seconds (or seven seconds, as is my personal preference), but then close the app and go back into the real world and remember that the face you make to the person sitting next to you in class or the joke that you tell your friends at dinner will last for more than a few seconds, and will require you to take responsibility for them in the future.

2 Responses

  1. Joe Pi

    The Wall Street Evaluation of 40 billion was given not because of the product, it was because stupid people hang on the site so Marketers can sell them crap.


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