Social Media 101: A Thirty-Something’s Guide to Snapchat
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What the hell is Snapchat? Well, I know WHAT it is. I even have it on the highly valuable home screen on my iPhone. I get snaps fairly regular, mostly from friends and family that are much younger or much cooler than I have now become. It’s not my go-to app, but I do see part of the allure. It’s communication for the moment in time, replacing the nudge and “hey, look at that” of communication yester-year.
On technology, I have a perspective that is unique, as I was young enough to embrace technology, yet much of is popular today was not available in my formative years. I went through high school without a cell phone and (gasp!) had to actually talk to someone in person to make plans. Sure, there were landline phones and an ultra cool pager or two, but planning an event lead to a lot of sitting around waiting. The on-demand generation, we were not.
“What about computers?” you may ask? You don’t know patience until you’ve sat through 15 minutes of modem beeps just to hear the famous, “You’ve Got Mail”. This was life, not just a movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
And that’s just getting on the internet. Back in the day, checking your email literally took the better part of the night. I distinctly remember logging on, watching a TV show in the other room, and coming back on commercial just to click the message. By the time the next commercial came on, it MIGHT be open. And remember that landline discussion? If a friend did happen to call they either a.) kicked you offline or b.) heard a busy signal.
Yet, as technology started to grow, I was very much in the heart of it. I started a web development company while in college and have worked in the technology sector for my entire career. As computers became faster, smaller, and more powerful, more and more of my life moved to technology. My generation started the social media movement, with sites like Friendster and MySpace, we utilized emerging technology to connect in ways that our parents could never understand.
Back then, technology was exclusive. The internet was our own walled garden. Our parents didn’t get online. And neither did kids. For a few years (at least in the midwest, where I grew up), technology was exclusively dominated by college students and young adults. From AOL Messenger and anonymous chat rooms to MySpace walls, we laid the groundwork for the social media boom.
Now, social media is inclusive, with aunts, uncles, parents, business colleagues, parents, teens, & kids all sharing technology. No longer can communication be so “public” like on a MySpace Wall where it really did seem like a walled-garden (although, really wasn’t). Now, social media is in real-time and anything shared can become viral and touch every inch of the globe in one Kim Kardashian re-tweet. Facebook has 1.04 BILLION active users DAILY, with over 900 million of those logging in on their phone. Twitter has been in the news for slow growth, but over 1Billion accounts have been created on the platform. And Instagram, WhatsApp, Snapchat, & a host of other apps allow communication to the masses, both at home and across the globe.
This massive audience and viral nature of social media have lead to the rise of apps like Snapchat that limit the audience and squash virality.
So back to Snapchat. Why are millennials flocking to a messaging app where the messages disappear and no trace of what you shared remains (in theory)? Back when the internet was young, and I was at their relative age, communication on social media “felt” like ours. It was daring to be a bit voyeuristic and over-share, with the safety net of believing the people seeing it were our peers.
Today? Everyone has those options. Millennials avoid the mainstream social networks and have found their niche on Instagram (showing the side they want, filtered and pruned), with Snapchat being a stream of thought… raw even. So for me, I understand why Snapchat might get the reputation as a platform for sexting and bullying by the older generation. But I also understand, after a lot of thought, why that’s not why the masses are flocking to it.
Snapchat gives a communication tool that they can control. It’s not viral. It’s not concrete. It’s here now and gone seconds later. Whereas my generation added their idea to a Wall and expected that no one we didn’t want would ever see it. Snapchat makes that the hallmark of their platform.
So what the hell is Snapchat?
If you’re a thirty-something, think of it as the MySpace of this generation.
If you’re a millennial? This post will disappear in 3, 2, 1…