In this week’s edition of “Doing Literally Anything to Avoid Writing a Newsletter,” I decided tonight was the perfect night to learn how to Snapchat. I fired up the app, fleshed out my half-completed account and begged a few Snapchat veterans for help getting up to speed. All this while live-tweeting the experience, natch. What follows are three observations from my first serious venture to Snapchatland.
- It doesn’t matter how inscrutable your interface is if the reward is worth it. For those looking for something beyond the obvious sexting utility, the appeal of Snapchat can be hard to find. But that’s because it’s only hard to figure out how to follow DJ Khaled, the record producer/DJ/social media star whose Snapchat stories absolutely live up to the hype. In fact, it’s hard to follow anyone. Also: the difference between a story and a chat is not immediately apparent, the iconography is obtuse, the concepts of “back” and “forward” are dependent on the user’s current action, and the Discover section has no organization or scannability. Despite all of this, Snapchat is a hugely successful and transformative force in our culture. There must be something more to it than just dick pics.
- Your Snapchats are a more thoughtful, more produced version of yourself. If, on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog, on a text message, nobody knows you haven’t showered in three days. Snapchat does away with this by putting video front and center. I’ve thrown out snaps where my voice cracked or I just lost track of what I was saying and I wouldn’t consider myself super-high on the vanity meter. This must have an impact on how people interact on this platform.
- The days of clichéd, paint-by-number engagement devices are over. How subversive, the third point of a list negating the form of the list itself! But with no preview, no scannability, no easy way to refer back to past content and no expectation of anything other than ephemerality, Snapchat is a medium for the moment. A user proactively commits to watching a snap and doesn’t get tricked into it with cheesy headlines or listicles.
There you have it. I now understand what everyone else has known for the past 18 months. If you want to connect on Snapchat so you can mock me, do whatever the hell it is you do with this thing: