Instant Gratification: Trying To Making Sense Of Snapchat

“Wait…so you upload a picture..and it disappears after 24 hours?”

When I first heard about the concept of Snapchat, I was confused and lost. How does a concept like that even work and how has it acquired so many users?!

From the beginning, I thought Snapchat was probably one of these trendy apps which everyone was downloading for the sake of taking part in it. But looking closely, I was dead wrong. From reading all the tech blog sites and interviews with Snapchat users, I can see why this app is a giant hit among millennials and why advertisers are drooling over its potential.

I downloaded the app and tried it out for myself. After playing around with it for a couple of days, I honestly didn’t get it. I can view a picture or video and within 24 hours it disappears?

Huh? What’s the fun in that? Why are all these kids so intrigued by this?

After a couple of weeks, I stopped using the app and eventually deleted it.

Several months later, Snapchat had gotten about 20+ million users, had blown off a buyout from Facebook and was getting ready for an initial public offering (IPO) which would list them on the stock exchange.

Wait? How did that happen? What was I missing? What was so intriguing about this app that investors were willing to pour money into it?

So I re-downloaded the app, threw away my pre-conceptions and biases and decided to dig in to Snapchat.

Getting Started

So, Snapchat is easy to get started. After downloading and installing, all you have to do is sign up.

After signing in, you’re going to have to prepare yourself for Snapchat’s “unusual” interface.

When you first start, you’re presented with the camera screen where you can immediately start taking “Snaps”, which are pictures and/or videos.

Snapchat Camera UI (Chat button the left and Stories on the right)

The circular button above is where you tap to take a picture. The “blue” icon on the left is the Chat section and the three-dots icon on the right is where the Stories are.

Stories Section

The Stories section is where you see all your “Snaps” and most importantly, all the “Snaps” of people and friends who you follow. You can easily add contacts from the settings menu.

Snapchat Stories

Each snap from you and your friends has a time period for their pictures and videos that they post on Snapchat. That time period is 24 hours. There’s a tiny time counter where you can see how much longer the Snap will stay before it eventually “vanishes”.

24 hour Counter

This is one of the things that makes Snapchat unique and has me scratching my head. I can’t see past pictures which means I always have to check into the app to see what my friends are up to. Truth be told, this is a great strategy because it actually works.

There’s a term used for apps like Snapchat. It’s called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). If all your friends are talking about the cool activities that they’re doing and they say they document it on Snapchat, you would probably want to see what the fuss is about and check it for yourself. This means, you’re likely checking out what people are up to because you don’t want to “miss out”. Then you start posting your own “snaps” to become part of the community.

Also, taking a picture and knowing that its gone is kind of satisfying. You can “snap” a picture or video, it’s seen by your friends and within a day, it’s gone. There’s no pressure to “glamor” it up with filters or anything like on Instagram where your pictures live on forever. Even Instagram has a feature where you can “archive” past (and embarrassing) pictures.

This kind of represents the world now where we’re always moving on to the next thing. It’s in and out and on to the next topic. We’re all having shorter attention spans due to the growth of social media. So, to have an app like Snapchat that gives you 5 seconds to view a picture and then have it disappear within 24 hours is perfect for this generation.

The Chat Section

Snapchat Chat Window

“Where the hell did my chats go?!”

That’s the first thing I asked a friend I was chatting on Snapchat about my earlier messages. Apparently after receiving a message through the chat section, it disappears if you leave the app.

Wait what?!

There were several times I was confused because I thought I had accidentally deleted their message after it had come through.

I don’t know how these kids do it but chatting on Snapchat is a headache. I’m still getting used to it but I would at least love a setting where my messages could disappear within 24 hours and not within seconds of closing the app.

The Instant Gratification Factor

I’m still finding out new things about Snapchat everyday. I have the basics down. But I was honestly lost trying to figure out why people love this app so much. I think I might have figured it out though:

Instant Gratification

After you’ve posted a “snap”, you can check how many views you have in the Stories section at the top of the menu.

Snaps and the number of views depicted by the eye icon

The “satisfaction” of seeing how many people view your snaps is actually a rewarding feeling. Unlike Instagram where you can tell if your picture is actually popular by the number of likes, with Snapchat, you get to see how many people are seeing your pictures and videos on Snapchat. It’s almost the same with Periscoping or any live-streaming app. You would be more encouraged if lots of people were viewing your live-stream or checking out how many views it got after you post.

One thing I know is that, seeing a high number of visits for Tech Nova is gratifying. I know that the site is being viewed by a large number of people.

The same concept applies to Snapchat. All these silly faces with face filters people keep posting? Yeah, lots of people are viewing them.

Silly Fun

Speaking of silly faces, Snapchat’s face filter feature is a huge hit among its users; women especially. If you have female friends, you’ve probably seen the one where they have the crown of flowers on their heads in their profile picture. It’s all silly stuff like changing the shape of your face or having dog/cat features. But guys can join the fun as well.

Yes. That’s Kevin Hart with the flower crown filter on Snapchat

Selfies were already fun for most people, but the use of face filters has apparently pushed that factor up a bit. I’m not the biggest fan of selfies in the first place so you probably won’t see me using one of those face filters anytime soon.

Instagram Literally Stole Snapchat’s Thunder

Instagram Stories | Image Credit: Mashable

The popularity of Snapchat was so huge that Instagram decided to steal borrow Snapchat’s features and launched their own feature called “Instagram Stories“.

I’m going to be honest: I actually prefer Instagram Stories to Snapchat.

Yes, Instagram Stories do vanish after 24 hours like Snapchat but the slight difference in the user interfaces is a big deal for me.

With Instagram Stories, I can actually see how many “stories” a friend has posted. With Snapchat, I can’t see or don’t know how many snaps they have. Plus Instagram already has the timeline feature where I can post all my pictures for the long-term. That’s something which makes a difference for me. I think this is the perfect metaphor for how I view Snapchat vs Instagram:

Instagram feels like a long-term relationship while Snapchat feels like an on and off fling with no history of the times we had.

If Snapchat ceased to exist, I think I would be spending more of my time in Instagram Stories.

Apparently users feel the same way because the number of users actively on Instagram blew past Snapchat ever since they released their “Stories” feature.

I’m still on Snapchat. Usually, I just post pictures about where I’m working for the day, what music I’m listening to or any other random thing I can think of.

I still post on Instagram but for the life of me, I have no idea how people post on Instagram AND Snapchat. I tried it once and it was exhausting.

Taking advantage of both platforms if you’re running a brand or company makes sense, but for people like me, it’s cumbersome.

Image Credit: BT

So do I “get” Snapchat?

Actually, after spending a couple of weeks using it, I do. It’s for people who want to show what they’re up to in their daily lives without worrying about how it would look in the long-term because they know it will just “disappear”. Some users have said that with Instagram, they feel some “pressure” to make their pictures look good and professional, especially when they have tools like filters, contrast and all that editing stuff. But with Snapchat, they don’t feel that burden. It’s just “Snap”, use face filters filters for selfies and go.

In the long-term, Snapchat is not for me. I can’t really see myself continuing to use it in the future. With the emergence of “Instagram stories”, I don’t really have that FOMO feeling.

The question now is whether Snapchat can keep its users engaged since Instagram is encroaching on their territory and investors don’t sound optimistic.

Regardless, Snapchat is one of those experiences you have to check out and immerse yourself in before you get it. For me, it’s been a good experience. But like I said, this feels more like a fling than a long-term relationship.

*If you want me to see my boring Snaps on Snapchat, you can find me on there with username “mraveragejoe” or just scan my SnapCode.

Image cover credit: TheNextWeb