THE MAGNIFICENCE OF SNAPCHAT: MORE THAN JUST SEXTING

SnapChat is an application that can and will change the world.

THE HISTORY

In case you have been living in a cave without wi-fi, are my grandma, or are too haughty and refuse to upgrade your 2004 “razr” flip phone to a smart phone, SnapChat is a video messaging application for smartphones that was initially released in 2011. It allows users to send short picture or video messages to recipients of their choice, which are only available for viewing up to 10 seconds after the recipient first opens them. It has become an incredible medium to share content with friends, followers and even complete strangers, if the user configures their privacy setting to allow the public to find their username and add them.

Some SnapChat stories are incredibly creative and inspiring, and the users are often praised for their work. It makes it easy to follow celebrities as well, giving a more personal and intimate look at some of the more unfiltered and unedited components of their lives. They last 24 hours from their posting and can be viewed multiple times by followers.

As with every advancement or development in technology, the app was first met with horrified resistance from concerned parents who immediately assumed it was (and still is) only used for the dreaded “sexting” because the messages are short lived and “disappear” forever after the time limit is surpassed, thus being the perfect medium through which to send those naughty snapshots.

But, much like many worries of suburban PTA moms, this fear is futile. A study in 2014 found that only 1.6% of SnapChat users used the application for sexting. That is an incredibly negligible amount of people when one considers how many use the app daily, around the entire globe.

THE GOOD 

Snapchat provides so many comical and positive stories posted by really inspiring daily users who make a real effort to make their followers laugh. One of my personal favorites, Shaun McBride or “shonduras” goes on daily adventures and does all sorts of stunts to make his followers smile. He is a true inspiration for anyone seeking out a creative angle on life and provides positive source of content every single day.

Not only does SnapChat connect friends and give users insight on the daily lives of their favorite celebrities, it also gives sneak peeks into the daily lives of people around the globe with the daily featured “Live” story, which takes place in a new city every 24 hours. These live feeds are what really got me hooked to checking my SnapChat, and also made me realize that this app provides something much deeper than the normal connections of social media.

SnapChat shows us the truth that our media wants to cover up. It gives a voice to people in countries that we know nothing about, connecting humanity without the added filters and malarkey that the fear-mongering media would like us to believe.

(HERE’S THE PART WHERE I ADMIT THINGS THAT MAKE ME SOUND LIKE AN IGNORANT, UNCULTURED WHITE GIRL, BUT BEAR WITH ME, IT HOLDS MERIT)

Perhaps it’s my own ignorance, but even as an open-minded person, I’ve always painted a much different picture in my brain about the state of cities in certain countries around the world. When the only thing that we hear about on the daily news is about bombings, terrorist attacks, crippled power structures and rioting in developing countries, it’s hard to build a mental image of places in the Middle East, Central America and Africa as being metropolitan, safe and just plain NORMAL. I’ve always known that these places couldn’t be as bad as the media portrayed, but it wasn’t until I saw short stories posted by citizens of these places themselves (read: Bahrain, Cairo, Beirut, The West Bank etc…) showing their daily lives and their communities from their point of view. IT IS SO INCREDIBLE!

While I definitely do NOT want to downplay the seriousness of terrorism, poverty and other tragedies of humanity across the globe, I do want to emphasize the importance of recognizing how citizens of these media-marginalized places are often doing just fine, living their lives and being great human beings despite the rest of the world portraying their hometown as a “danger zone.” The Cairo snapchat story in particular got to me, because I’ve always wanted to visit Egypt but in recent years have envisioned it as a horrifying and dangerous place, thoughts that are only reinforced by the red “US CITIZENS TRAVEL WARNING” on government websites. It is regulated unlike Twitter and reddit, which helps in a lot of ways to prevent perpetuation of harmful stereotypes and prejudice, doing even more to connect our world and fight xenophobia and ignorance about foreign cultures.

THE BAD

Much like everything else in this world, SnapChat has it’s shortcomings as is far from the perfect app. Concerns over privacy, whether or not the pictures “actually disappear” off of the SnapChat servers and the sharing of potentially damaging or harmful images are all legitimate concerns. I believe that if you give the people a tool, some of them are bound to use it in a stupid way. It’s always going to happen regardless of what the tool is, which is why we have to have warning labels on ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. SnapChat isn’t perfect, but it is an app that has a lot of potential to share stories from around the world in a way that restores humanity and connects normal, everyday people in a positive manner.

Another criticism is that, because one must have a smartphone or other device with data capabilities and/or access to the internet, SnapChat doesn’t accurately reflect the stories of people of all demographics. It is more limited to wealthy and middle-income demographics, as those are the individuals who have smartphones and access to sharing networks. While it is true that we only see the stories of certain demographics which is a downside to technology, the more important issue to focus on would be bringing people out of poverty in the first place, not making SnapChat accessible to people living in it.

The lack of low-income users of the app just reinforces the reality that the stories of the poor are often the stories that we do not hear, simply because they are deprived of platforms on which to share them, leaving us ignorant of their situations.

THE FUTURE

I believe that SnapChat will change the perception of otherwise marginalized cultures for many of its open-minded users who love getting a glimpse of how individuals live their lives all around the world. I also hope that it becomes an application more widely accessible for people of lower income and in developing nations who may not have easy access to smartphones and networks on which to share data.

In a society that is being pushed towards globalization, the better that we can understand our fellow human beings that come from different walks of life, the better our world will be as a whole.

So those are my thoughts on SnapChat. Whether or not you love it or hate it, you have to admit, it’s for so much more than just sending dick pic’s and poop selfies with a 10-second shelf life.

add me on SnapChat – @valeriethinks

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