Snap Talk is a safe space for Snapchat enthusiasts young and old. Not, like, super old, though. Don't be weird. Follow along here, and follow "THRILLIST" on Snapchat, wouldja?
You may have heard recently that, according to a study done by the University of Michigan, using Snapchat makes you happier than Facebook and other social media platforms. That sounds plausible, when you consider the competition: Facebook is full of racists, aunts, and #brands; Twitter runs on vicious snark and masturbatory outrage; Instagram is a vast, well-filtered reminder that your life is not as good as it should be.
It’s believable, then, that Snapchat makes you happy in a way the others may not. But pointing out their pitfalls hardly explains why everyone’s favorite ephemeral messaging app actually instills joy and positivity. So as a frequent snapper and (very, very, very minor) "Snapchat personality," I’ll hazard my own guess.
Snapchat makes me happy because it’s intimate. I don’t mean intimate like “sex” -- though a couple years removed from its notoriety as a dick-pic superhighway, a lot of people still think that’s what the app is.
No, I mean that Snapchat is sincere, private, and genuine. It facilitates a side of the human experience that a vast, dispassionate Internet has taught us is neither worthwhile nor sustainable. On Snapchat, it’s both. You can be vulnerable on Snapchat. You can make friends on Snapchat, you guys. I should know -- I’ve done it.
Making friends online has always been a creepy concept, but it’s also something central to the Internet’s promise. We get online in search of a connection -- not just to information, but to people. From Craigslist Missed Connections and MSN chatrooms to AIM buddy lists and chain emails, the earliest attempts to foster human bonds online were as earnest as they were ham-handed.
We’ve come a long way since then. Facebook relaxed its rules and allowed non-college students to join the party, and we discovered we liked looking at pictures of people we knew, reading messages from our favorite celebrities, and watching videos of animals acting like humans. At some point, reality TV -- once ridiculed as flash-in-the-pan fringe programming -- went mainstream, and with every minute of "reality" footage aired, we became more and more comfortable with its central proposition: reality was a hell of a lot more interesting if it was performed.
I don’t enjoy performing a version of myself.
So we posted photos on Facebook that made us look thinner, taller, more fun -- better than we were. We took to Twitter to hone our voices as disaffected jokers and consummate wits. We staged Instagrams, edited YouTube videos, and Vined our lives away six seconds at a time.
For a while, it was fantastic. And I think for a lot of people, it still is, and maybe that will always be the case for them. But personally, I guess I slowly realized that I don’t actually enjoy performing a version of myself.
That’s not to say I always enjoy being my actual self, either -- I just decided it wasn’t worth the energy to maintain a well-filtered, subtly embellished online identity, no matter how closely it resembled me IRL. I was tired of playing myself in Digital Reality Theater. I was also constantly anxious that the tension between that online persona and my real-life self would eventually reveal me as a fraud, or a douche, or worse: that the line between performance and existence would blur like it does in so many shitty reality TV shows, rendering me a cheap imitation of the person I claimed to be.
But enough with the plodding existentialism and digital dread. Let's get back to Snapchat. I had mostly given up on all the digital posturing before the app came along, but only once it arrived did I realize what I’d been missing: the intimacy! That promise of meaningful connection that stretches back to the early days of the Internet, but has so rarely been fulfilled by the communities we build on it. On Snapchat, though, the connection is impossible to ignore.
Trolling someone on Snapchat isn't just difficult -- it's pointless.
I've made real friends on Snapchat, you guys. A lot of them are in other parts of the world. Many of them are teenagers and have very little in common with a 27-year-old. I will accept that you think this is weird (because it is), if you accept that this is also kind of cool (because it is). We talk about all sorts of stuff, from the weather in Sydney, to the systemic sexual harassment women endure, to the latest Drake music video. More importantly, we talk about it frankly, because we’re the only two people in the conversation.
Whether you use the app like I do, or just snap stupid faces to your close friends (or do something else entirely), that one-on-one intimacy underwrites the interaction. Your Snapchat dialogue, even if it's just a back-and-forth of silly pictures, is safely insulated from the callous circus of other social platforms. Far fewer people are on Snapchat trying to troll or attack other users. And you can be reasonably sure that a fellow snapper is delivering a realistic portrayal of themselves -- or at least, a more realistic portrayal than you might find on their Instagram or Facebook profile. Why wouldn't they? There's no audience to "perform" for besides you, and then all the content promptly goes up in smoke, gone in 24 hours tops.
In other words, trolling someone on Snapchat isn't just difficult -- it's pointless. That’s a nice feeling, isn't it?
This is what makes Snapchat a buoy in this tormented digital sea of performative outrage, fractured conversations, and curated, well-filtered lifestyles. (That, and meticulously doctoring a selfie to make myself look like a 19th-century naval officer. That’s pretty fun, too, I guess.)