DRIMAL: Snapchat: The phenomenon

I was first introduced to Snapchat on the patio of Box 63 during Camp Yale this year. “You have to download this app — it’s so fun,” said an already proficient snapchatter.

I thought it was stupid. I didn’t get the point of taking a picture that would inevitably disappear. But, I did start sending “snaps” of my friends and me, mimosas in hand, to the few users that showed up from my contacts. Then I kept using it. Every day. Then new friends started Snapchatting me. Then my daily Snapchat notifications jumped from five to 35. Then, my friend started referring to his iPhone as his “Snapchat machine.” And then, yesterday, my friend was invited to DKE formal through a Snapchat.

Snapchat stopped being just an app and turned into a culture, a phenomenon. It’s basically Twitter combined with texting combined with crack. Twitter gives you 140 characters to say your thought or what you are currently doing; Snapchat gives you 31. A text is permanent; a Snapchat is gone within 10 seconds.

Anyone who has you in his or her contacts can Snapchat you. I doubt that you would refer to everyone in your contacts as a friend, and I am positive that you wouldn’t text most of them at 11 a.m. on a dreary Monday just to say, “I hate Spanish,” or “All I want for Christmas is you.” But these are just two of my Monday Snapchats from people that I would never text, and who would never text me at 11 a.m. on a Monday. But now, because of Snapchat, I’m receiving a picture of their face during a lecture on a dreary Monday, and you know what? I like it.

And I’m not the only one. I’m not the only one that feels legitimately closer to some junior guy because I receive a Snapchat every time he moves from the eighth to the fourth floor of the Stacks.

Because of Snapchat, we feel more connected to the girls and guys we used to know solely in terms of bars and fraternities. We know who has a lot of work and who doesn’t. We know who is hung over and who is on a walk of shame. Best of all, we can see it. We see the aftermath of that looming senior thesis or that Zeta late night.

I think Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, understood our generation when he put a time limit on a picture message. Maybe he didn’t mean to, but he took technology backwards a bit, bringing us a little closer to what real human interaction is supposed be. It’s supposed to be a memory, not something tangible.

A conversation with a friend at Flavors is not transcribed and then published on the Internet, searchable by future job prospects. It is simply left as a memory. And when we retell the story tomorrow, we might misquote our friend or forget some details — but that’s OK. That’s what human interaction is about.

That’s what Snapchat is about. You see it for a few seconds, then it’s just a memory.

By taking out the forever part of a picture or text, more people want to share. They aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, to send an ugly picture that may turn someone off or a beautiful picture that may seem narcissistic. They know it will eventually disappear.

We are a generation of the “Like” button, of the comments box and the wanonymous comments box. Of statuses and tweets. We post things online, aware that anyone can see them. Aware we are being judged and almost always looking for approval — for that “Like.”

Snapchat is different. It’s fun without the terrifying permanence of the rest of our technology.

Hopefully this is just the beginning. Hopefully our culture can go back to a time when we weren’t scared to share too much. But for now, my username is Chaoticklowy, and I accept silly faces, hungover stares and of course, formal invites.

 

Chloe Drimal is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact her at chloe.drimal@yale.edu .

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