The Fun and the Fleeting
Controversial apps are nothing new. From male-objectifying on Lulu, to rating your marijuana on Leafly, today’s generation knows that there is an app for literally everything, no matter how inappropriate. When Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel and his friends from Stanford invented a smart phone app that allows users to send pictures and videos to each other that self-destruct after no more than 10 seconds, their intentions were tentative. Spiegel and his partners probably never could have predicted that one day, national Newsweek correspondent Winston Ross would report, “Snapchat users are now sending 350 million images to one another every day, up from 200 million in June and 20 million a year ago. Be it safe, be it foolhardy, Snapchat appears to be on fire” (Ross, 2013).
After the preliminary Snapchat introduction in 2012, New York Times writer Nick Bilton exploded with an article about it’s (blah blah) and labeled it as an inappropriate app that enables unhealthy habits (teen sexting research included) (Bilton, 2012). After personally using the app for several months and reading over 15 articles about its use and users, I disagree with Bilton’s stance on the app and mostly agree with NYU student and TechCrunch writer Jordan Crook, who wrote a persuasive article about Snapchat and its deserved position among the top social media apps (Crook, 2012). After reading both Bilton’s and Crook’s articles, I observe that Snapchat connects people in a more realistic way than other social media outlets because its nature is raw, unedited, and “in the moment” as opposed to being carefully and meticulously crafted for escapism.
No one can argue that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and I believe this truth applies to new media outlets like apps. There are multiple articles from professors, bloggers, and concerned moms that voice disapproval of Snapchat because it assists teens in secretly communicating with one another. There have also been several criminal cases covered by national news that have involved ‘sexting’ via the app. One case, involving 32-year-old Oregon teacher Alexander Taylor and multiple female students, easily supports claims of Snapchat contributing to this growing social epidemic (Mays, 2013). The suspected indecency doesn’t seem to end with inappropriate student-teacher relationships: “There are adolescent boys all over America soliciting naughty pics from adolescent girls… And there are adolescent girls broadcasting their Snapchat handles on their Twitter pages, tempting anyone on the Internet to ‘add’ them, to get the party started.” (Ross, 2013). Although easily a vessel for sexting, Snapchat isn’t the only media channel that allows for it; sexting cases use text messages, e-mail, and social networking sites.
To put this trend into perspective, a 2010 survey from the FBI.GOV website brings this statistic to the table: “20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys) sent naked or seminude images of themselves or posted them online… Nearly one in six teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones have received naked or nearly nude pictures via text message from someone they know” (Bowker, 2010). Snapchat was nonexistent when this survey took place, and I have found no credible organizations that have gathered data since; Nick Bilton would probably hypothesize that these numbers have drastically increased with the 2012 introduction of Snapchat.
To oppose Bilton’s stance, the viewpoint we find from 24-year-old Jordan Crook is one that takes personal Snapchat usage into account. Although his opinion is not fully negated by his inexperience with the app, Crook bluntly calls out Bilton in this way: “…There’s the folks who’ve written about Snapchat being the sexting app, but barely ever use it, like… the NYT’s Nick Bilton. Yep, the same guy who started the myth doesn’t even use the app” (Crook, 2012). Her article even addresses Bilton in jest saying, “When you’re sending over 50 million snaps a day, a few of them are bound to be of naughty bits. But 80 percent of those snaps are sent during the day, with a spike during school hours. Whatever the sexting stats may be, they’re more likely using Snapchat to cheat on tests than to sext” (Crook, 2012).
Crook goes on to explain that she and her 19-year-old sister frequently use Snapchat in a way that I can personally relate to: they send silly pictures of themselves to each other, or trade dressing room pictures asking for a second opinion on an outfit. The witty and culturally relevant blog waitbutwhy.com has coined the phrase “Facebook Image Crafting” (a phenomenon stemming from social media facade pressures) and labeled it as “exhausting and insufferable” (7 Ways, 2013). I believe Snapchat’s ephemeral and honest essence combats this demand and provides a relief from feeling the need to impress those surrounding us. When I snap dramatic double chin photographs to my best friends on the days when my fat pants don’t fit- it’s transparent, and our relationships grow from laughter and reciprocated snaps.
This fast-growing Snapchat social train may derail in the months or years to come, being replaced by the next big social media app, but for now it’s a fun and unique accessory to any smart phone. It takes on many different roles, whether honorable or questionable, and has definitely added significant depth to social media exploration.
Ross, W. (2013, Sept. 21). Snapchat: Naughty, Goofy, Ethereal, Permanent or All of the Above? The Daily Beast. Retrieved from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/21/snapchat-naughty-goofy-ethereal-permanent-or-all-of-the-above.html
Bilton, N. (2012, May 6). Disruptions: Indiscreet Photos, Glimpsed Then Gone. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/disruptions-indiscreet-photos-glimpsed-then-gone/?_r=0
Crook, J. (2012, Dec. 26). Inside Snapchat, The Little Photo-Sharing App That Launched a Sexting Scare. TechCrunch. Retrieved from: http://techcrunch.com/2012/12/26/inside-snapchat-the-little-photo-sharing-app-that-launched-a-sexting-scare/
Mays, S. (2012). Snapchat sexting sends former Oregon City High School teacher to jail for 10 days. The Oregonian. Retrieved from: http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-city/index.ssf/2013/08/snapchat_sexting_sends_former.html
7 Ways to be Insufferable on Facebook. (2013). waitbutwhy.com. Retrieved from:http://www.waitbutwhy.com/2013/07/7-ways-to-be-insufferable-on-facebook.html
Bowker, A. (2012). Sexting, Risky Actions and Overreactions. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/july-2010/sexting
Written by Amy E. Pittman for Dr. Laura Jeffries’ Directed Experience in Writing class on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 (Revised 10/9/2013)