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Three Reasons Why You Will Hate Snapchat -- but Should Try it Anyway

In talking with folks, I have heard everything from the frustrated "I just don't get it" to some variation of the awkward, "Oh isn't that the one you send naked pictures to strangers?" Yes, yes it is. I am, in fact encouraging you to start sending nudies to random people on the street.
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When I signed up and starting using SnapChat, I was confused.

I mean really confused: "Snaps" and "Story" and "Fires," and . . .*

Seriously, Alice in Wonderland confused.

As you can imagine, being the compassionate and empathetic creatures that my kids are, my fumbling around was met with snark, mockery, and laughter. Whatever youngin's -- I'm the Digital Ministry Expert in this house!

Now get off my lawn with your SnappittyChats!

I'll figure it out myself.

For those of you older types (I'll let you define that "old" threshold for yourself) who have also experimented with Snapchat, you know what I mean. In talking with folks, I have heard everything from the frustrated "I just don't get it" to some variation of the awkward, "Oh isn't that the one you send naked pictures to strangers?"

Yes, yes it is. I am, in fact encouraging you to start sending nudies to random people on the street.

Yes, like any social network, there are dangers and there are plenty of reasons why you may be hesitant to try it or push through the learning curve. That said, if you do decided to jump in, let me give you a few reasons why it can be initially such a confusing and frustrating experience.

Like every social network before, Snapchat has to straddle that line between fulfilling traditional user habits and providing creative technologies for growing demographics. Snapchat, unlike other apps, seems to focus more on the new demographics over the habits of us old farts. Simply said, Snapchat is betting that it will be more successful if it focuses on the new and creative over the old and habitual.

Yes, I would be that old and habitual user.

When one finds oneself on this side of the divide, there are two ends of the response spectrum. On one end you have those who say, "Snapchat stupid, I didn't want to do it anyway!" all the way to those who say, "Oh what the heck, I'm going to dive in head first, and give Snapchat a big old bear hug! Let's do this!" Obviously, because of my personality, my profession, and the overwhelming temptation and opportunity to mortify my children, I jumped right in and gave it a shot. As I have toyed around with it over the past few months, it has become clear to me why Snapchat requires such a shift in what I would normally expect from my social networks.

Wait, what, no ReSnappping?

Hate to tell you, but your ego will not be stroked in the same way on SnapChat as it is on other platforms. Gone are your public share counts that you can raise up as some banner of content producing greatness. Yes, you can see who viewed and there is a ranking number given to each person Snapchat does not operate like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram where it's all about follower, like, or share counts. Hate to break it to you, but Snapchat provides no banner that one can raise to notify the kingdom of one's content producing dominance. Snapchat is really about the now, the RIGHT NOW -- what you see, how are you feeling, and what just happened.

So for those of us who like to see numbers, there are small slivers of this on Snapchat, but for all intents and purpose, the measure of "success" will not be in counts, but in the peaks and valleys of interaction with others: when you see their stories, when others view yours, and the snaps exchanged back and first between friends.

And nope, no tagging, hashtags or links either.

Design matters.

I can hear the hipster mantra echoing through my cavernous noggin, "If you are going to do it, do it well. Design matters." Well, hate to disappoint you, but if you are overly committed to this you will never get there on Snapchat. While you can do a few little to make your image interesting, Snapchat is messy. With the ways text us used, blurry camera shots, doodling, and emojis for days, snaps are not meant to be clean, minimalist, or edited.

The first thing that you will need give up is the idea that snaps will be an idealized or stylized expression of yourself -- this is simply not the point of Snapchat. Snapchat is about giving more texture and personality to the pictures with doodles, facial expressions, and personality rather than to elicit "oohs" and "aahs" because of some bad ass sunset that you were able to capture, edit, share.

Selfies are the sign of the end times.

Ha. Now I have written about selfies before and I think that they are great. I love people's faces.

Snapchat seems to be made up of about 50%+ selfies. Sometimes the selfie has written commentary and at other times, none is needed. Snapchat is all over the selfie things with different filters and features that you will soon discover. Be warned it's a little addicting and fun.

In the end, I love the selfie thing. As I eye-hawk my daughter's snaps, she and her friends are connecting about random things: commiserating about homework, planning things to do together, or just being silly with one another -- and the selfies that accompany them only add to the conversation.

So why bother trying . . .

  • Why not? Like most social networks that are bit more specialized than Facebook, some personalities will eventually get Snapchat and enjoy it. It is apologetically goofy, it will connect you to people in different ways, and ultimately it will give more breadth to your experience of the world. But, not everyone will stick with it. That's okay.
  • Stay Connected. It will keep you in touch with your kids. Okay, so not all kids will Snapchat with their parents. That's okay as not every parent should. But for those of you who have the kind of relationship where you understand online boundaries with your kids in a way that allows you both to be on the same social network, it is pretty awesome. Every once in a while I get snaps from my kids that are just for me, meant to communicate something that only we would find funny or meaningful. Shhhhh . . . don't tell them, but when this happens, my heart smiles.
  • Why text when you can Snapchat? Yeah, I know. Some of you are just getting used to texting being the primary way of connecting with your kids, friends, etc. Well, depending on your kid, the shift may be on. I get about 1/4 of my commutations with my middle daughter via Snapchat. Sure the same messages could be sent via text, but then I wouldn't get the accompanying facial expressions. I don't think it's the primary way that kids will be communicating with parents, but it's definitely another option and benefit to keep in mind.
At the end of the day, yes, this social network can be used for evil and we must be careful, but at the same time, like most things in life, to be driven by fear is no way to live. So, try it out. Find a few folks whom you know are on it [Username: breyeschow] and just play around. In the end, you may not like it, but at least you gave it a try.

*Glossary and Links

  • "SNAPS" are the picture or videos taken and shared, a
  • "STORY" is the posting of public snaps, and
  • "FIRES" are measure of how many snaps are shared between two people over a period of time.
  • Snapchat on Wikipedia