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The Carletonian

Snapchat is a harmful social media app

<cial media is both the biggest blessing and curse of our generation. While it allows us to establish connections between friends and family across long distances, it can also quickly become addicting and overwhelming. One of the most widely used social media platforms among young people is Snapchat, which I believe fosters addictive and inappropriate behavior more than other popular social media platforms such as Instagram. Snapchat is addictive by design, promotes oversharing, and is seemingly semi-permanent, all of which easily leads to poor judgement when using the app. Like with all social media, I believe that there is an appropriate and inappropriate way to use the platform. However, I would argue that Snapchat most easily lends itself to inappropriate rather than appropriate behavior, unlike some of its counterparts.

It is important to understand Snapchat’s two main functions. Firstly, users can interact directly with friends by sending photos or videos back and forth between two people or a small group. Secondly, users can also post a photo or video to their “story” which can be viewed by all followers for 24 hours before disappearing.

One of Snapchat’s distinctive features is the “streak.” If you and a friend have been “snapchatting” each other daily for three consecutive days, Snapchat starts to count how many successive days you contact each other, called a “streak.” Streaks are designed to make Snapchat addictive, as not responding for 24 hours causes the streak to be lost.


Therefore, there is often pressure from friends to keep up the interaction by “snapping” them every day to preserve the streak. These streaks can last for hundreds or thousands of days, and if for some reason one forgets to respond and the streak is lost, there is often an angry friend to answer to. Such pressure to constantly respond to friends and keep up streaks makes Snapchat extremely addictive by nature in a way that is absent from other forms of social media.

Unlike other social media platforms, Snapchat encourages the dissemination of a large volume of low-quality information that leads to oversharing of one’s life. First, take the counterexample of Instagram. Before posting on Instagram, which is typically done only every few weeks, there is often considerate thought put into the choice of the photo and its accompanying caption. Snapchat, on the other hand, through its widely used “stories” feature, promotes continual updates on one’s life through low-quality photos and videos. (While Instagram also has a “stories” feature, I do not consider it as popular as Snapchat’s nor the principle function of the app.) Unlike on Instagram, it is not considered odd to post on a Snapchat story daily, which leads to considerable oversharing of one’s life online. For example, I do not care that my friend’s friend spilled their milk or that my friend saw a big bug and ate pizza for lunch. This oversharing also makes fewer interactions truly private as at any minute someone can whip out a phone to start photographing or filming. Furthermore, this habit of constantly filming your life makes it hard to live in the moment and appreciate your relationships with people physically (and not virtually) around you.

Finally, Snapchat gives the illusion of being semi-permanent, therefore discouraging thinking before snapping. When sending a photo to a friend, one can select for how much time they will be able to see the photo—anywhere from one to ten seconds. (More recently, there is also the possibility for a photo to remain on the screen until the receiver decides to tap out of it.) This not only contributes to oversharing of one’s daily routine but also can lead to inappropriate behavior such as sexting and cyberbullying. The semi-permanent nature of Snapchat gives the illusion that what gets sent can receive no consequences as it only last for a few seconds before disappearing (although realistically the ability to screenshot snaps allows them to become permanent).

Snapchat has become a very prominent part of social media, especially among young people; however, its features easily promote addiction, oversharing and inappropriate online behavior. I myself am a big user of Snapchat, and guilty of its misuse. However, I hope that in recognizing its dangers I can become a more appropriate user of the app.

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