The thing I unexpectedly like best about Snapchat

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:

  1. Take photo.
  2. Upload to Instagram, adding title and venue.
  3. Upload to Flickr (separately, of course, not wanting Instagram’s squareness), adding title, description (optional), venue, and tags.
  4. Weeks or months later, import photo into Lightroom and add title (optional), description (optional), and tags.
  5. 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:

  1. Take photo.
  2. Add text and/or drawing (optional, fun!).
  3. 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…

17 Feb 2014 in Links

On this day I was reading