Snapchat makes us flatter

Mind and Fun App: What to Know About Snapchat

The chat has disappeared as if by magic: If a user leaves the conversation with one of his contacts on Snapchat, he only sees a blank screen when he returns to the chat. This volatility of information is the main characteristic of the social media app Snapchat.

"Snapchat serves the need for the digital eraser," says Nina Wicke, who researches online communication at the TU Braunschweig. This is expressed as follows: Videos or pictures from chats with friends are displayed once and can then be repeated again. Then they are gone.

However, users can save sent recordings - for example with screenshots. Users can see this, but the image can be used on another device and can no longer be erased. Text messages exchanged with other users disappear when you leave the chat. That can be quite annoying, explains Jessy Kösterke from the digital magazine "t3n". Texts can, however, be saved in the chat. This is possible with a longer pressure on the respective message - this is another way to avoid the volatility.

Pictures and videos are called "snaps" on Snapchat. These snaps can also be shared in the "story" which is a bit like Facebook's timeline. Users can line up snaps here and tell stories - for 24 hours. Then the films disappear again. Snapchatters do not have their own profile for browsing, such as on Facebook or Instagram. "Hashtags and markings are also missing," says Kösterke.

Nevertheless, you should choose your privacy settings carefully. If you do not want complete strangers to send you pictures, you should select in the settings that only friends can contact you. The visibility of the content shared in the story is also preferred to be restricted to friends.

Snapchat is now said to have around 150 million users. This means that the app released in autumn 2011 already has more users than Twitter. Especially young people snap. "That is due to the fun factor, which among other things offers the picture design", believes Kösterke. The constant exchange of their own life is standard for young people, she says. And Snapchat is the ideal platform for this.

The app makes it possible for young people to let friends participate in their everyday world, says researcher Nina Wicke. "Even in the unadorned moments." She explains the fact that Snapchat is spreading among young people in particular: Young people orient themselves very much towards their circle of friends in their actions. When many of their friends use a service, they want to be part of it too.

The app's innovations, such as the fleeting story, the ten-second video and the filters, are particularly interesting. For example the "Lenses" function: These filters let a rainbow flow out of a mouth or transform the face into a honeybee. Snapchat changes these filters regularly and creates new variants so that the function remains interesting. It's sometimes bizarre, but actually always funny. However, you need at least Android 4.3 or an iPhone 4S for the face filters.

Snapchat is everything in one: photo and video app, messenger and digital network. You swipe back and forth between uses. That can be quite overwhelming at first, explains Kösterke. "You have to give the app a chance and some time first." There is no real menu. For a long time, Snapchat was an immediate medium: photos or videos could only be shared directly. "The content was never as clean as on Instagram, but more direct and personal," says Kösterke. In other words: In the beginning, Snapchat was particularly popular for exchanging rather revealing photos. In the meantime, images and videos can be saved, edited and shared with the "Memories" function.