As a Millennial, I've had plenty of opportunities to have my bad decisions haunt me. Every college party I attended was followed by a morning of me clicking "Untag, untag, untag..." on friends' Facebook posts. I've been lucky so far, but I know friends whose bosses have called in them in their office to discuss "problem posts" or whose mothers have seen them chugging a bottle while wearing nothing but their skivvies.
With the prevalence of digital cameras and the tendency of most technology to store photos and data indefinitely, increasingly many of us are being haunted by our over-documented pasts. It's been true for a long time that your past can haunt you, but in the digital age your past not only haunts you, it follows you like a shadow that everyone can see from the vantage point of their Google Glass or iPhones.
We as a society spent centuries trying to figure out how to make things more permanent. But now as it takes our trash hundreds of years to disintegrate and conversations about who did the dishes last are archived forever, the latest naughty thing is figuring out how to make moments disappear. As such, the apps getting the most attention these days are those trying to be discreet.
Snapchat: Though it gained fame for being an app that primarily serviced naughty teenagers, Snapchat, the sharing app that allows users to send messages that self-destruct after ten seconds, has grown beyond its teen schemers. Currently Snapchat users are uploading more than 150 million images a day. If you need evidence that people are looking to disappear, compare that number to Instagram's 40 million uploaded images a day. It's true that the most popular thing uploaded to Snapchat is still selfies, but some consumers are increasingly using it as a way to share other moments that they don't necessarily want to exist forever in the context-free void that is the internet.
(An example of a SnapChat though this one didn't disappear.)
Wickr: Though people are using Snapchat to communicate messages by placing words over images they share, its core offering remains image-sharing. That's where Wickr comes in as the app that allows users to send encrypted messages that can only be read within the app and disappear after six days. Wickr prevents the recipients from taking screen grabs of the messages and Wickr boasts military grade encryption exceeding "NSA Suite B Compliancy for Top Secret communication." Additionally, since the app doesn't ever require any personal information, you can communicate totally anonymously if you'd like.
Gryphn: Gryphn serves as an encryption tool for your text messages, videos, and images on Android phones. It also makes it so recipients will have a much more difficult time attempting to capture the information through a screen grab or by other means.
Facebook Poke: Always one to tag along, Facebook rereleased its "Poke" feature. No longer merely a way to annoy or flirt, now Poke allows you to send secret messages to groups of your friends. Group photos of you all making drunk fools over yourselves? Press send. No one is tagged, and the photo will only exist for ten seconds after that they seemingly disappear into thin air.
Though permanence will continue to be one of the assets of the digital age, with an influx of technologies that make it so you don't need to be haunted by your past, it's likely that soon most Millennial consumers will demand to choose how long a digital property should exist for. As for this article, it will self-destructing in 3...2...1...