I’ve been using Snapchat for a few months now, to see what it’s like, how it feels. The thing I like best about it isn’t something I expected.
(If you don’t know, Snapchat is a phone app that lets you send pictures or short movies to friends. After a brief viewing (up to ten seconds, often less), the picture or movie is automatically and permanently deleted.)
I don’t really know why I’m using Snapchat. I don’t have friends that I frequently text or IM, so Snapchat isn’t substituting for that. I feel like I’m forcing it a bit. Making myself use the thing. I don’t know how long I’ll stick with it. Often the photos are images I might have posted to my rarely-used Instagram and Flickr accounts, but instead I just send them to a handful of friends. Often, quite randomly selected friends; it’s rare that I have something that’s aimed at one particular person.
So my usage feels a bit arbitrary, a bit random, but the fact the photos are sent to specific people, rather than published for anyone, still makes it feel a little cosier. Shoving something in front of a friend’s eyes for a few seconds, saying “Ha! Look at this!” Or occasionally using it as a more fun substitute for texts or Twitter Direct Messages.
But none of that is the thing I unexpectedly like best. The thing I unexpectedly like best is the automatic deletion. Not the photo being deleted from recipients’ phones after viewing, but the photo being deleted from my phone after sending.
I’m a digital hoarder and dabble in the pro-am quantified self leagues. So if I want to share a photo from my phone online the process usually involves:
- Take photo.
- Upload to Instagram, adding title and venue.
- Upload to Flickr (separately, of course, not wanting Instagram’s squareness), adding title, description (optional), venue, and tags.
- Weeks or months later, import photo into Lightroom and add title (optional), description (optional), and tags.
- Decide whether to delete this photo from my phone and/or iOS Photostream.
So there are three separate upload/import processes, and a lot of adding of metadata, possibly three separate times (because, really, I’m beyond help), and the decision(s) about whether to keep the photo on my phone/photostream. All this admin makes me think twice about taking a photo. Even if I don’t want to share the photo on Instagram and Flickr, the weight of the Lightroom importing, the tagging, and the deletion decision is often enough to stop me from taking a quick snap.
Whereas, with Snapchat, the process involves:
- Take photo.
- Add text and/or drawing (optional, fun!).
- Send photo.
And then the photo no longer exists. Brilliant! No more photo! No metadata to add, no storage issues, no decisions! Freedom!
And, if someone sends me a photo, that also disappears! Also brilliant!
I don’t care about Snapchat’s USP of photo deletion because it makes things more private or special, but because it saves me from any further decisions. I don’t need to remember to back up this communication, store it somewhere, carefully add any missing metadata and oh God I really am beyond help, go on leave me here, save yourselves, go, I’ll be waiting here, deciding whether my tags should be singular or plural…