Parents: Don’t Follow the Shiny

This past Wednesday, Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, announced his differentiating comment around “we are not ‘social media’ and we have a new redesign that is about best friends.” Parents, here is the straight up, low down on this: Don’t follow the shiny objects.

What is most humorous about these announcements by these CEO’s is the redirect. Straight out of a playbook from a political advisor, “hey, look over here, look at this bread crumb we are going to give you,” all the while the fundamental problem still exists: Snapchat was built as a sexting app, built by Spiegel to get his college classmates to send pictures of nudes. Full Stop. That is the foundation of this creation and that remains part of it’s environment.

Along with persistent requests for nudes from teenagers, it has also created a toxic fixation with streaks - requiring users to login every day, take a snap (often of just the floor), and send it to their friend in order to keep their streak. And don’t even get me started on the mapping features where it geo-tracks our kids! So mid-Saturday night when your child is at home, they can pull up Snapchat, look at the mapping feature and discover a) all the places their friends are and where they are not and b) any predator can track your kid down via Google streetview.

Instead of the lurking van of the 80’s that we were all taught to be afraid of, now we have Snapchat’s mapping feature and disappearing photos with a persistent ask for nudes. Parents, this post is going to be harsh but I must implore you to look beyond the shiny and look at Snapchat and platforms like it and the harm it causes.

A redesign and attempt to differentiate in the marketplace is the vain attempts of two founders to continue to compete against each other without any thought of the impact of their creations. I get it, these flashy, shiny platforms are great distractions from our life. Lord only knows after a long day of my own chaos, a little escapism is warranted. Yet we as parents must get to the root of who is in charge and making the decisions that can severely harm our kids. Here’s a little bit about the founder of Snapchat.

I am sure he has learned a great deal over the last few years, however I am not convinced he has any concept of raising children and the impact of this platform on their self-esteem. During my years pursuing this tech startup dream, the Evan’s of the world are lauded in Silicon Valley as some kind of God. Stanford dropouts and spoiled rich kids that are in love with their algorithms and ‘cash at all costs’ mentality. This kind of mentality is what has crippled the efforts of many parents to raise healthy kids. While the Evan’s of the world get richer, we as parents are growing weary with the rise in negative symptoms among our children. A recent article from the Atlantic has numerous eye-opening statistics on the effect social media is having on our children’s mental health.

Many years ago, Evan had a very low opinion of women. His emails have surfaced and sure he was young, but what planet are we on? Is someone who believes this at 22 somehow different at 26? Maybe, but I have learned that change only comes through incredible heartbreak and hard lessons. The motivation to change would need to be massive.

For Spiegel, he has progressively been applauded, grown richer by the day, and I doubt his views are any different. One only needs to go to his product to see where it was born from and what continues to be the dominant use of his invention. Spiegel made a disappearing photo app for college kids to share nudes. No shiny objects or distractions can take away from that continued feature of Snapchat. If we as parents demanded for Snapchat to crack open his servers we would probably see millions of naked pictures of our children. Please think about that for a minute. Is any part of this scenario okay? By the way, since we have signed away our rights in social media we have not one leg to stand on to demand anything from Snapchat - “you grant us a license to use that content… you grant Snap Inc. and our affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, and distribute that content… you also grant Snap Inc., our affiliates, and our business partners the unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual right and license to use your name, likeness, and voice, including in connection with commercial or sponsored content.” They own your kids data and quite frankly yours as well. We will never see the inside of those servers because the powers that be will talk about “proprietary software” and protecting the IP of their company.

Snapchat then turns all those pictures and messages into data points, packages that data, and sells the time spent in the app as a win on Wall Street to charge brands ad revenue. Our children’s private lives, pain, and pictures have made Evan a very rich man. He does not care about what happens on his platform as long as he wins the Facebook battle and continues to line the pockets of himself, Silicon Valley, and the shareholders that have invested in him. He has zero motivation to change any aspect of this platform. A redesign reboot is a lousy attempt to be different than Facebook. And it is no coincidence that this redesign announcement follows a miss on the company’s revenue expectations and drop in share price. That is the business of social media today. That is the only function of this company: to beat Facebook and to make money doing it.

What Evan could do to be a standout human and put his money where his mouth is, is shut down mapping and tracking kids, ask for user verification, and not give the disappearing photo option to teenagers. Why you ask? If you want to understand the underpinnings of sexual harassment breeding, predator grooming, and self-esteem demolishing features, head to Snapchat and try to imagine yourself as a 14 year old girl (or younger) trapped in this vortex of negativity. So parents, do not buy any shiny propaganda from Wall Street backed platforms that are only concerned with profitability. They’re not concerned about ethics and most certainly not about the wellbeing of your child.

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