Phenomena: A Dose of Snapchat Etiquette - Are You Sending the Right Message?

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I graduated high school before the social media phenomenon exploded--think dial-up internet. In hindsight, this was advantageous. I was slow to engage and, as a methodical observer, I learned what not to do as others committed social suicide. Social media has evolved since the days of MySpace and Flickr. Instead of enjoying these tools from the privacy of our homes, we are walking around multi-swiping between apps. One of my favorites among the menagerie of choices is Snapchat.

In its early days, Snapchat was rather primitive, yet novel. We were able to send pictures and videos to one another, vicariously experiencing more of life. Soon after, Snapchat matured rapidly by enabling photo editing, geo-filters, face-altering filters, and much more. Along with this rapid evolution came unimagined finger-traffic. Snapchat boasts upwards of 100 million daily users, who watch approximately eight billion videos. This necessitates some degree of decorum. As with any technology, we should be mindful of how we use it. Here are some guiding principles underlying Snapchat etiquette.

Think before you post

Active users are fully aware of the consequences of posting something indecent in a Snapchat message. A self-destructing image doesn’t prevent someone from capturing it on his or her device. While you will be notified of the image capture, your image will live on long after the intended time allotment--potentially for unintended viewers to see. Worse yet, it can have legal ramifications. In July, Playboy model Dani Mathers, published a Snapchat image of a fellow gym-goer showering. As a result, the Los Angeles Police Department has opened up an investigation into the impropriety, and charges are pending the victim coming forward. Alternatively, if you are thinking about sending something provocative, if applicable, get some feedback. Send it to a close friend or family member before sending it out to your entire friends list.

There is a time and place

In general, you wouldn’t accept a call or text message in the middle of a conversation, so don’t open a Snapchat message. The same principle applies to all forms of messaging. Snapchat is no exception. In fact, I find it more intrusive than someone taking a call or looking at a text message. Both phone calls and text messages are major forms of communication between friends, families and colleagues--especially in an emergency. I am willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt that answering a call or text message is important enough to necessitate disrupting our conversation. After all, Snapchat was designed as a platform to send playful ephemeral images--nothing serious about it.

Consider your surroundings. It seems that every time I go out, there is one instance where someone begins using his or her phone in public, which is accompanied by a jarring chatter. I then look over as if they’ve made a mistake, but instead they continue viewing their media at full volume. Now, it would be unfair to pin this phenomenon solely on Snapchat users. But if you are one of these inconsiderate types, let me reassure you, nobody cares about you or your friends’ Snapchat banter.

The narcissism is strong with this one…spare us

No social media tool is complete without the chronic abusers. From the Kardashians to Snoop Dogg, these selfie-obsessed individuals teach us how to not interact with social media. Still, it seems among the general citizenry, the celebrity selfie-obsession has trickled down to become a prescription rather than a deterrent. The novelty of lenses and geo-filters makes it only more desirable to take an image of yourself and brag to your friends where you are--of course personal privacy and safety are of the least importance. Furthermore, Snapchat Stories, which enables users to create video/picture montages, will only exacerbate the self-absorption. Instead of inundating your friends with pictures of yourself, practice restraint. We will all still think you are a very interesting person. 

From a personal perspective, I enjoy Snapchat because I can quickly and comprehensively communicate with my family. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is especially useful because I spend most of my days in a fast-paced research laboratory, while working at times with hazardous chemicals. If I have a safe minute to share my toils or successes, I take the opportunity. This makes Snapchat a useful tool to update my support network.

Overall, the risks of using any social media platform are obvious. Filter what you say, be considerate for others, and don’t be so self-absorbed. There is much more beauty in looking outward than in. Happy snapping!