Snap and its little ghost

Snapchat is going to change your life (whether you like it or not)

You can’t escape it: Snapchat is going to change your life. Here is how.

It was very early and very cold and I was staring blankly at a milk carton. Then, I saw it: a hashtag. A hashtag on a milk carton. You know something has become mainstream when it appears on something as far-removed from the web as milk.

This is legacy of Twitter, and more importantly, its users. Hashtags are now used across most social media sites, on billboards and other places. This is part of a wide pattern: social media sites explode into the mainstream and change how we behave.

Remember life before Facebook? Sure you do. But things were very different. Facebook changed how we stay in contact with people and how we share our lives.

Each of the mega social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and so on) have left their mark on our behaviour.

Now it is Snapchat’s turn. Snapchat is often mistakenly viewed as just a messaging app for young people. But, it will bring about the next big shift in the web.

This is how Snapchat is already changing our lives:

  • Photos and videos are becoming rawer, more realistic and less polished – the Instagram backlash has begun
  • You tend to pay more attention to things if you know they are going to disappear shortly – the Twitter backlash has begun
  • Snapchat wants to become the “first screen” in your life – the backlash against television continues

Return of raw

Instagram helped us change ordinary photos into beautiful photos by giving us easy-to-use filters. This gave birth to millions of highly stylised, polished photos of food, babies, yoga poses etc.

Snapchat has given us the opposite. The images shared on Snapchat are instant, unpolished, often graffitied with text, emojis and more. They’re going to disappear shortly, so people just create them and send them. This return to raw, realistic photos is already creating a little ripple of a backlash against what web expert Aleks Krotoski calls the “super me.” That is the artificial and amplified version of ourselves we project on social media.       

Blink and it is gone

Our online lives are permanent (most of the time). Years of posts and photos are available in a few clicks. Snapchat is the opposite of that. All the messages on it disappear quickly, never to be seen again. (Well, not really, but more about that in an upcoming blog post). This urgency grabs our attention. We want to consume the information wholly and fully before it is gone. Compare that deep engagement with the shallow flicking that our other timelines induce, such as Twitter.  

TV dies another death

Twitter has dominated the “second screen” market. So, if you are watching a programme on television, you might also be following the conversation about it on Twitter. Snapchat isn’t interested in being the second screen, it is aiming to be the first screen. For example, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards were watched by more people on Snapchat than on TV. How? Snapchat is positioning itself as a media empire. It has a feature called Live Story that covers events by combining users’ videos and images with exclusive access-all-areas footage from its reports at the events. Its Discover section includes 15 media partners (like Mashable and Mail Online) who produce exclusive content for Snapchat. And yes, that content disappears after 24 hours, so you better watch it quickly!

You mightn’t use Snapchat, but how it operates is already changing the web. When it changes the web, it changes how we behave. It won’t be long before Snapchat’s influence spills into the mainstream and onto a milk carton near you.