A few weeks ago I joined Snapchat, mostly because I felt like I “should” (MUST STAY RELEVANT AT ALL TIMES) and less because I “actually wanted to”. In fact I really didn’t see the appeal of Snapchat at all and had already decided that it was solely for stupid people and nakedness.
Ya see I’d actually joined Snapchat before in 2012 and my experience had been pretty uninspiring. I followed (friended? I still don’t understand a lot of Snapchat’s terminology) a bunch of randoms from school and found myself completely perplexed as to why we’d use Snapchat to communicate over Facebook or Twitter. We were never talking about anything secret so the “cool feature” of content being deleted after opening was just frustrating rather than appealing. My interest in Snapchat waned quickly and it wasn’t long before I deleted it off my phone altogether.
Fast forward to 2015 though and I was noticing more and more bloggers and vloggers tweet their ‘Snapcodes’ (that’s the weird dotty ghost symbol by the way, each one is unique and your phone can scan it to add someone new as a Snapchat friend if typing a username seems too old fashioned) and it made me realise that real life people, adult people that I liked and respected, were actually using this bloody app. And probably not to send pictures of themselves in their pants.
So I made a mental note to download it again and when my 17 year old cousin Eve came to stay with me a couple of weeks ago I enlisted her help to get me up and running.
I should point out that I did have a bash at it first without any assistance but it’s really not a straight forward thing to figure out on your own. It’s actually pretty staggering to me, with my old tech hat on, how mindboggling the UX is. There’s a lot of swiping, a LOT of swiping, and I don’t think I’d have ever found the filters on my own, let alone the private messaging side of things. It’s a hotbed of frustration that leaves you wondering if the sexting stereotype (which Snapchat has arguably struggled to shake off with certain generations) was born out of people getting so angry with it that they just took all their clothes off in one last bid for sweet release.
Long story short, it was clunky and irritating.
Once Eve took me through all the various features though, and babysat me over the next 48 hours as I played with it, I realised that it’s wonderfully fun and entirely addictive. Not to mention a million miles away from the app that many of us disregarded as teenage nonsense back in 2012.
I don’t want to bore people who already use Snapchat with long descriptions of what it is, but it’s basically a messaging app which allows you to communicate via photos, short videos or text (so far, so WhatsApp) but your messages are deleted as soon as they are viewed. It’s the throwaway society at its finest. HOWEVER, it’s not this private messaging side that appeals to me – other than the ace filters I really can’t see why you’d choose to chat to friends on Snapchat over WhatsApp, but maybe that’s because I’m a boring married person who doesn’t easily get embarrassed.
What I love and adore about Snapchat is the ‘stories’. This feature wasn’t introduced until late 2013 so I had never seen it before, but stories allow users to upload snaps that get stitched together into a ‘story’ (can be a mix of pics and videos) and crucially these are viewable as many times as you like over 24 hours. It’s these broadcasts, for want of a better word, that have drawn me in and left me obsessed.
I watch Snapchat stories all day long (around my work schedule, ahem) and I LOVE them. I watch the stories of my real life friends, celebs, random people I followed by mistake (often my favourites), vloggers, bloggers…all sorts.
And then of course there are the curated stories from the Snapchat team and I bloody LOVE these. Honestly, the London story puts a massive grin on my face everyday. It makes me feel more connected to my city and makes me love my home that little bit more.
The London story is my favourite because it’s where I live, but the rotating daily specials are a close second. In a couple of minutes I can be transferred to some far away place and feel like I’m monetarily on holiday….and because it’s all filmed on people’s phones and super low quality there’s something very real about it. I don’t feel like I’m in New York when I watch a snazzy airline commercial showing the glitzy skyline, I feel like I’m there when I’m watching random strangers looking tired as they take the subway to work.
The realness of Snapchat is a *massive* part of the appeal for me in general, I can’t overstate this. I have gone on (and on) about how much I hate the fact so many Instagram accounts have become the same green juice/marble backdrop/autumn leaves basic boredom. Snapchat is the absolute opposite of that, no deceptive tinkering (well, you might get a filter that day which gives you a beard or a crown) and – from the crowd I follow anyway – nobody trying to be anything but themselves. It’s not staged and photoshopped and scripted, it’s quick and low quality and instant.
It took me a long time to get my head around the idea of creating content that disappears – I am from the school of thought that you create content to be as sticky as possible – but you quickly realise it’s the lack of permanency that makes Snapchat great. People don’t stress about what they’re putting out there so just shove it up knowing it will be gone tomorrow, which is much more like real life of course. We don’t tape our conversations with our friends so we can keep them forever, we just live in the moment and if things are worth remembering then we will – we don’t need a record of everything. Of course, if you do create a story you’re particularly fond of you can download it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that once yet.
I’m going to do another post where I tell you my fave people to follow (heaven forbid there’d be a discovery element within Snapchat itself), but if like me you’d pegged Snapchat as either “mindless crap” or “just for sexting” then I’d re-visit it. The curated content is great and people are doing really cool things with it. Really cool things.
I don’t know if I’d have ever got the hang of it if I hadn’t had help, so if you know someone who uses Snapchat already then I’d recommend getting them to show you the basics. It’s very quick to master once you’ve figured your way around so it’s not like you need to invest more than 10 minutes, I just think it’s woefully unintuitive if you’re grappling with it for the first time with no assistance. Maybe I’m just stupid.
My current goal? Get one of my snaps featured in the London story. If it ever happens I’ll be adding that special achievement straight on to my LinkedIn.
This is where I tell you to add me I suppose?!