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The Ephemeral State of Snapchat: How Disappearing Data Affects User Psychology

Written by Brett Newcomb, Creative Content Producer

Social media has become so intertwined into our daily lives that we rarely stop to think about how the way we use a platform affects the way we think. All social media platforms are designed with specific uses and gratifications in mind. By this, I mean specific platforms are designed for specific ways of communicating.

To illustrate this, look at Facebook versus a platform like Snapchat. Facebook was designed as a way to share images and updates of one’s life in a public sphere where other users can connect and interact with their information. This information is permanent. A user can delete a post, but the data still lives on forever in the Facebook servers. Snapchat, though, is entirely different in its uses and gratifications. You send a picture, almost as a version of texting with imagery involved, under the pretense that whomever you send this to will see the said picture before it is deleted forever. Knowing this, it is incredibly interesting to examine how these uses and gratifications affect the way we communicate.

Snapchat is one of many ephemeral social media platforms and likely the most popular as well. One of the unique things Snapchat and other ephemeral platforms provide is a similarity to a spoken word. Once you send a message, it is out there and cannot be taken back, just like saying something you may not mean. Said more simply, the application provides the opportunity to be forgotten in a world of permanence on social media.

It seems as though younger generations gravitate more toward ephemeral platforms. Facebook, while still extremely popular, is more popular among older generations. What do these trends say about the nature of the platforms? I personally feel as though younger users may feel less pressure in using Snapchat because they can share things on this platform that they cannot with others.

Most people’s minds will go to sexting or images and videos of partying when hearing this, but I’m referring simply to things that might be seen as too “edgy” for an Instagram or Facebook account, where we have been engrained from a young age that future employers may see these things. Due to this, many kids use Snapchat in a less formal way than other platforms and likely more frequently too.

As a member of Live Oak, it is important to pay attention to not only Snapchat and Facebook but all platforms and how they are being used. This can help with our own campaigns, ensuring we implement them correctly on the best-fitting platform.

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