At a time when we obsessed over perfecting our Instagram posts, Snapchat empowered us to let go. Amidst a plethora of social media platforms celebrating permanence, Snapchat was the refreshing one-night stand that we all desperately needed.
That was Snapchat's appeal, right? The durability of digital content, and the inherent risks associated with it, led users to seek more ephemeral means of self-expression.
It was a liberating thing, knowing that your selfies would self-destruct. It meant that your triple chin wouldn't be on public display for all of eternity. You could care less and therefore, say more.
It's no surprise that Snapchat soon became known as the dick-pic-app. With fewer strings attached, Snapchat users felt more comfortable sending each other raunchy photographs. Their Snaps became seemingly inconsequential, much like their dreams. Aware that every Snap would soon fade away, users treated each as an opportunity to do whatever he or she pleased.
Snapchat enabled users to communicate more freely, doing and saying things that they likely wouldn't have through a traditional text message. They seemed to obsess less over capturing and saving the moment, and focused more on enjoying it, for however many seconds it lasted.
They also appeared desensitized to the emotional weight that a selfie could carry. One hundred years ago, if you wanted to capture a photograph of yourself, you needed access to a camera and a darkroom in which to develop the image. Then, if you wanted to actually share the image with someone, you had to send it the old fashioned way via mail. The recipient of your letter would likely have appreciated the time and energy that you spent enclosing a personalized photo. The process required to share selfies in 1915 was far more complicated and time consuming than it is today.
It's no secret: the advent of smartphones and social networks expedited the sharing process so dramatically that today, it's hardly a process at all. Snapchatting has become an impulse so effortless that often times, it's difficult to control.
One of my best friends is in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend from high school. He's madly in love with her and devoted to their relationship. He calls her every night before bed, but occasionally, she's busy and he's bored. Occasionally, he'll Snapchat his ex-girlfriend to pass the idle time. He doesn't think much of it. It's just a stupid little selfie and it vanishes after 1-10 seconds anyway.
The problem is, his current girlfriend would not, by any means, appreciate the gesture, no matter how quick or harmless it may have been. In her eyes, this is a clear violation of trust. Sending anyone, let alone your ex, a personalized picture is a big deal. It demonstrates to that individual that you still care.
The larger problem is, my friend doesn't acknowledge any wrongdoing on his end. He thinks that he's living in a new world with new rules and that it's now socially acceptable to Snapchat your ex without thinking twice about it.
Sometimes he even sends the same picture to his current girlfriend and his ex. It's an effortless move and, in his mind, a brilliant one. He simply takes an audience-neutral-selfie and selects multiple recipients. Neither recipient has any idea (unless, of course, she were to peep his Best Friends list, which, as of yesterday, doesn't exist, bringing me to my second story).
I know this chick from work who's in a serious relationship and also has a ton of guy friends. One of them was, until yesterday (when Snapchat removed the Best Friends feature), listed as one of her Best Friends. This meant that he was one of the people with whom she interacted most frequently on the mobile app. Her boyfriend, and all of her Snapchat friends, for that matter, had access to her Best Friends list. So her boyfriend knew, as the rest of her friends knew, that she was sending personalized pics to this random dude on the side.
Now this is where things got messy. She also became conscientious of her Best Friends list (prior to its removal), and more so, concerned that her boyfriend had too. Consequently, she developed a strategy whereby she would send decoy Snapchats to her three girlfriends in order to keep her guy friend from appearing on her Best Friends list. Essentially, she was covering her tracks with content designed to do nothing more than overshadow other content.
For the life of me, I can't help but condemn the dishonesty of such behavior. At the same time, I understand that she's grappling with a rapidly changing technological environment. She's bound to mess up here and there and at least she's able to recognize when she's behaving questionably.
I'm sure that she, and many Snapchatters like her, would be overjoyed to learn that yesterday's update removed the Best Friends feature altogether. Yes, you heard me correctly: the Best Friends feature is history -- much to the delight of sneaky girlfriends and the dismay of social media stalkers everywhere.
With the Best Friends feature gone, we can no longer rely on the fear of getting caught to act appropriately. We must hold ourselves accountable for our actions. It doesn't matter who's watching.
Oh, and if you were the type who chronically checked your boyfriend or girlfriend's Best Friends list, maybe you should think twice about committing to that relationship. Maybe you should think twice about commitment period. You see, you shouldn't have to constantly monitor someone in order to trust them. Keeping tabs on someone you love is much like erecting a barbwire fence around a beautiful tree. It may keep the intruders away, but it's also a waste of your time. Shouldn't you be enjoying the tree?
It seems to me that the Best Friends feature was getting in the way of everything that Snapchat stood for in the first place. After all, many of my friends enjoy Snapchatting for the same reasons that they celebrate one-night stands. It represents commitment-free fun that distracts them from whatever is really on their minds.
Now, to make things clear, I'm neither an advocate nor opponent of Snapchatting, just as I'm neither an advocate nor opponent of one-night stands. Both serve their purpose when conducted responsibly.
I'll say this though. I'm glad that Snapchat removed the Best Friends feature, and I hope that it's gone for good. It saddens me to see the people around me living dishonestly -- and I truly believe that the now late, great feature promoted disingenuousness. To have to create bullshit content to cover up what you're actually doing on social media must be a stressful burden to bear. Besides, wasn't Snapchat all about communicating more freely?
Nobody should live in fear of doing what they want to do, or saying what they want to say. So if you're yearning to send some random chick a dick pic, knock yourself out, but have the decency to dump your girlfriend before clicking send.