Is Snapchat Ruining People's Lives?
Apr 16 2013
Hello, I’m Bertie. This column is basically a place for me to call bullshit on girl related stuff that I think is dumb.
We all have iPhones by this point, right? It took a few years, but as we stumble into the endlessly instagrammable summer months of 2013 it seems safe to assume we all ditched our affordable phone contracts in favour of the ability to “visit” the “app store” once every four months. For a while now, lurking coquettishly among the Geordie Shore soundboards and Talking Larrys of the app world, there has been Snapchat, an app that I'm sure you've already used to send out hundreds of naked pictures of yourself to people, like a takeaway menu delivery guy with insatiable hangover horn.
As a concept, Snapchat definitely appears to have its merits. It’s an app that deletes whatever content you send forever from both your phone and the recipient's phone ten seconds after the file has been opened. So you can send raunchy swimming costume changing room shots without worrying that you’re going to end up on whatever the new IsAnyoneUp? is, or going viral on squaddies' phones. Whoop. After Audrie Pott, Amanda Todd, Rehtaeh Parsons and other girls who've been driven to suicide by evil bastards with naked pictures and a thirst for blackmail, a mode of communicating that can preserve the sanctity of your nipples really sounds like a good thing.
I fell in love with the way it bypasses all the bad bits of social media (remembering ex-boyfriends, discovering ex-boyfriends' new girlfriends, remembering how happy you used to be together, etc) and combines all the good bits (instant gratification, flirting, semi-nudity). But then I saw it in action and realised that practically, it’s really, really not a good thing. In fact, I've now reversed my opinion to the extent that I’m worried Snapchat is ruining a lot of people’s lives.
Firstly, IT’S NOT THAT PRIVATE. Snapchat has been around long enough now for posts like this to pop up every few weeks. There are a ton of YouTube tutorials out there telling people how to save the videos, and there used to be a whole tumblr dedicated to "Snapchat Sluts", until it was shut down (don't watch that video, btw, the guy will depress you). Encouraging name, right? The problem is, when something affects an air of privacy, it kind of needs to be entirely private. Unfortunately, given that the Western world now consists almost entirely of sofa-bound oversharers, that was never going to be the case.
Secondly, YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU SENT. Okay, I get that's kind of the point, but still, people have actual brain memories as well as phone memories, remember? When you’re drunk, literally everything seems like a good idea. Telling someone you fancy them by mumbling that you “don’t think love is too strong a word” seems like a good idea, sending cry-pictures to people that have upset you feels like the best (and possibly most conceptual) thing in the world. My friend accidentally ended it with a guy she was seeing by sending him a ten-second video of her middle finger, because she decided he was out with someone else that night. (Imagine receiving that. A silent ten-second video of someone giving you the middle finger that then disappears forever. Imagine how confusing it'd be.) IMO, Snapchat is fun and everything, but that app that Marni's ex-boyfriend makes in Girls which charges you money to call your exes when you're drunk is an infinitely more useful thing. Does that exist yet?
Thirdly, CYBER FOOTPRINTS ARE KIND OF IMPORTANT, otherwise file-sharing is just a ridiculously unregulatable minefield. Imagine Steubenville if the images that had gone viral had disappeared instantly. How quickly somebody could be targeted and abused, and how difficult it would be to convict the perpetrators without a trace of evidence, especially if (as with Steubenville) the victim was semi or fully unconscious when it happened. The kind of insane, no-strings-attached ideology which exists behind a simple and inventive idea is seriously dangerous. You wanna send pictures of a drunk, naked girl to your friends, but you don't want to go to jail for it? Snapchat. It's like it never happened.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, be careful. Oh, and be naked more often IRL. Nudie pics? 100 percent overrated.
Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes