Snapchat has caused several beneficial and adverse effects on society. First, and perhaps most directly, Snapchat forces people to communicate in a timely manner. Whereas in previous forms of communication, including letters, email, and even texting, a response was not required immediately. Replying by letter, even in our modern era,
takes around a week. Responses by email vary from hours to days to even weeks. Texting
can also often take days if one is busy enough. In short, these forms of communication do not have set periods of responses because their messages are “permanent” and can be read at any time. Conversely, Snapchat requires a more immediate response. This is because there are “Snapstreaks” that can be unlocked within the application itself. For example, if a friend and I send snapchats to each other for five days in a row a “5” will
appear next to my friend’s name in the application. Further streaks will unlock emoji’s such as smiley faces or hearts next to someone’s name. Yet these streaks can be broken and disappear is a snapchat is not replied to within 24 hours. Therefore, snapchat forces users to reply quickly if they are to maintain these unlockable features with friends. In summary, “Snapstreaks are emerging as a way of quantifying a friendship. If you’re friends with someone, you want that reflected in a high Snapstreak” (Shamsian, 2016).
A broader result of this quick response manner is that users are constantly in touch with one another. Before Snapchat, when I kept in touch with my friends and relatives through text, Facebook, video, phone, or email, I would know the major events in their lives and where they were. I did not know the minutiae of their day-to-day lives. Yet because of Snapchat, I have a good idea of what they are doing everyday. For example, I can see what my cousin ate for breakfast, then went to the beach, and then went home and watched an episode of House. Snapchat has given me a more personal insight into his life that I would never have had without the application. In a way, Snapchat makes users feel more included and involved in the livers of their friends.
However, in a related manner, Snapchat has perhaps affected how users come to view significant events. Take for instance Coachella, a music festival that occurred over the weekend of April 14th. Many of my friends attended Coachella, and so I received numerous Snapchats of the festival. In a way, I was able to see Coachella through their eyes. Yet this also made me wonder how much they themselves enjoyed the concerts. This is because Snapchat makes users, such as myself, feel obligated to share important or exciting events with others on the app. If I go to Europe or somewhere “exotic” I feel inclined to use snapchat to share my trip and what I am seeing. Therefore, these experiences are no longer as personal and genuine to me because they are being shared with others. I have personally sometimes felt that I am too focused on snapchatting to enjoy the actual experience or site itself. For example, when I went to Denmark recently and visited a castle, I was upset that there was no WiFi, and thus I could not Snapchat. This hindered me from enjoying the castle, even though I was literally standing in the middle of it, because instead of directly enjoying the experience I also felt forced to share my experience with friends. This feeling is not only restricted to me, but among my friends as well. Often, when I go back home to Hawaii and go hiking, the first thing my friends and I will do upon reaching the apex of a hike is to take a Snapchat so that we can show others what we have achieved. In a way, we use Snapchat to validate our lives and our experiences to others. As one writer puts it, “we all need to stop focusing so much on capturing the moment and just enjoy it instead” (Alexander, 2013).
As a result of the above effects, Snapchat affects the way we act. Since Snapchat relies on videos and photos, we are naturally inclined to imitate what we see. For example, if I receive a couple of Snapchats from different people and they are wearing the same style of shirt or shoes, I will feel socially pressured to adapt these styles of dress as well. Similarly, if numerous Snapchats are sent to me of meals from “Bob’s Diner,” I will be curious enough to go to the same place. Therefore, Snapchat gives use social cues and indirectly affects the way people act. This is true in my personal experience as well. One way I learn about what types of music to listen to or where to grab a bite to eat at is by viewing my friends’ snapchats. If they are at a concert by some musician named “The Beatles,” then I will find myself listening to some songs by “The Beatles.”
Similarly, if one sees Snapchats of things that they themselves are unable to access, such as an expensive restaurant, a vacation to the Caribbean, or a night out with friends, they may start to feel anxious or lonely. I myself have sometimes felt left out when I see snapchats of high school friends who attend college at home and often hangout with each other. Since I cannot be there with them I feel left out when viewing their Snapchats. I am not alone in this experience, as a study has found that “too much time on sites like Twitter, Snapchat, Reddit and Tumblr ‘may elicit feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier and more successful lives” (Molloy, 2017).
However, Snapchat has also benefited society as well. Several of my friends who haven’t picked up a newspaper since middle school and have no interest in watching a news channel like CNN or Fox are able to stay up to date with current events through Snapchat and the “Discover” portion of the application where content from CNN, VICE, and other news outlets are hosted. Since Snapchat is such an integral part of their lives they find themselves looking over political news, such as the 2016 election, or global news such as immigration policies. A survey has shown that 44% of millennials who use Snapchat also use the “Discover” content in Snapchat as well (Wallenstein, 2016). Snapchat has positively affected the millennial generation in this manner because I believe that millennials would not otherwise bother to keep up with the news.