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11/18/2013 11:37 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Why Do Teenagers Love Snapchat?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
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Answer by Mayeesha Tahsin, Software engineering student (1A), University of Waterloo

I feel like it's the thrill thing; if I am browsing stuff, it's exactly for one reason and that's that the picture is going to vanish if I don't use it right now. It makes me chase 'real time'.

 

That creates a 'scarcity effect' in the brain if we think of it in a cognitive psychology way. People are thinking mentally that if they don't see things in a limited amount of time, it's going to vanish, and that's why the Snapchat founders are using the 'time limit' really graciously. They understand the public motivation. they made the Snap stories 24 hour limited. Until now, none of the social networks actually can 'function' this way. It's a great game for people. Send the snap and watch it vanish. People just like to see 'vanishing things'. It's been used in magic shows forever.

 

The disappearing material gives this feeling of 'artistic creation like that guy' and the security that it can't be 'judged because no one will see it''. I'd be really motivated by that factor mostly. As in I'd just contact 10 people and send random pictures to other people because the pictures are going to disappear and I won't have to store/categorize/share/take responsibility for it.

 

And real thing is the 'slogan' they started is spreading really fast. "It ain't Facebook.'' The teenagers are buying it because at this age, people like to differentiate themselves from the earlier age group. Facebook launched in 2004 and I was 12 back then. So, what I told myself "It's not myspace, my cousin uses myspace, my cousin seems boring, it means myspace is boring too, I'll go to Facebook." At this moment, my sister thinks the same way.

 

The 'initiating period' is really fast. People can just put in the email and start it. And at this moment, people just don't like to log in to anything like before. And it's on handheld devices, so the 'artistic tendency' of the people kicks in. Teenagers of this generation are simply more interested in interacting with the phone. Usually  sharing means 'interacting with the people', but people are showing this tendency to be more interactive with devices too, as "Siri'' shows. I think it gives people a feeling of privacy because it's not a human.

 

I also feel like since it's a mobile communication network, it's going to be really 'lightweight'' for some reason if they can keep up to whatever that they are doing. I'm not sure about techno aspects. And I still don't feel like buying into the hype that it's the next social network or it's creating a new medium for communication. I won't say it's a fad either, like skeptics say. People obviously like it. The trend is 'handheld device promoting interactivity in both Tinder and Snapchat". Snapchat is definitely going to be around for a few years. I don't like the way people are confusing it between something that's enjoyable and something that's a utility(Facebook). Facebook is going 'under' other social networks in a way. Even if people 'snap' all day, I feel like I won't get any useful content from my snapping like Quora or any outside interest features. It's cool. It's a good tool. It just makes the day awesome. But it's not a 'network' and it does not give me the feeling of being in a network because I'd constantly have to add other people and not be able to catch up when I want to. 

Whatever weaknesses Facebook has versus Snapchat (one identity, weak links, advertisements) are also the things that make it a 'social network'. Compared to that, I feel like using Snapchat is "just another thing that I'd be using sometimes". And real thing is that 'fastness of sharing photos'' comes from the fact that people are sharing snaps between the people close to them. They are not using them to network that much, I think, because I'd not like to share random photos with people I don't know much. I just feel like that tool is simply awesome, but will never give me this network and connectivity feeling. At the same time, 'teenagers' are thinking 'Oh it's not Facebook, and I want to do some snapping because I'm bored'' and how far this feeling leada them is pretty long. Suppose the teenagers from 13-18 are into snapping all day for now, and after two years, whatever will come might Snapchat faster than Facebook. The 'reach' Facebook has seems better to me in the long run. It's the thrill that is really 'hot' with this thing. I never call things 'hot' but I'm just going to call it this. It was a risk to vanish pictures after they comes but it was just worth it.

 

I don't get why people are calling it a fad. It's not a fad. Twitter was not a fad. These type of things are really new and communication methods always seem 'frivolous' when they start. I'm sure Victorian people would have fainted at the name of snapping and called it 'betrayal against arts''. But fast communication is forever important. If it's pictures,then why not. But 'communication medium' and definitive 'social network' are not really the same. Basically, ultimately, in different ages, people just move from network to network I guess. My brother was spending time in myspace first, then he went to Facebook and Skype, now he's into tweeting and snapping. It's a pretty age dependent thing. It's just another 'tool'. But people are trying to keep their ID in Facebook still and treating it as 'home'. Ingratiated with life. Natural. I feel it's funny, but as snapping is rising, it also proves that Facebook has finally integrated with social life to the point people are even trying to reject it.

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