Why is Snapchat so much more engaging for younger people compared to adults? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
There is a dramatic difference in how youth (i.e. < 28) and adults (i.e. >28) use Facebook and Instagram, and consequently whether they derive value from Snapchat.
Generally speaking, adults have fewer, closer friends on their social media accounts than young people who can often have 500+ diverse, highly active friends/followers.
Furthermore, younger people’s social status is more strongly associated with their social media activity than adults’, which is primarily judged by other factors like job, family, and politics. This is especially true for students since they have a lot of free time, are geographically concentrated, and are in constant communication.
As a result, young people are much less “connected” to their average friends/followers while also much more conscious of how these friends/followers respond, leading them to post less (but not necessarily browse less) than adults.
Therefore, for many young people, Facebook is best understood as a “personal LinkedIn,” i.e. an account they have to “be found,” codify mutual acknowledgement, and keep up to date on groups and events, not a platform they actively engage with, post to, or solicit interaction from.
The divorce of Messenger from Facebook, while successful, has extenuated the passivity of youth Facebook usage and siloed Messenger as a pure communication service, not a social platform. The abject failure of “Days” has made this point clear.
Though less extreme, these same social dynamics apply to Instagram too. In general, young people are much more conservative content sharers than adults, preferring to post only their highest quality photos with appropriate edits and sufficiently witty captions.
The rise of “Finstas” — i.e. fake-Instagrams — as a more casual way for teens to share content with their closest friends is testament to this trend and psychology.
Then, there is Snapchat.
Snapchat is valuable and beloved by young people because it is not a public profile like Facebook and Instagram. On Snapchat, all content is ephemeral with strict limitations on editing, most content is sent privately, and no content can be publicly rated or compared.
As a result, users — though conditioned to be reserved everywhere else — do not feel inhibited about what they can share. On Snapchat, everyday moments, embarrassing videos, and unflattering selfies reign supreme. Unlike on Facebook and Instagram, things feel real and people, authentic.
I believe that everyone values this experience, but only adults have ubiquitous access to it. Free from strong social pressures and limited to a smaller group of close friends, adults are liberated to be themselves on every platform they use — hence their high posting frequencies.
Young people, in contrast, only feel free to be themselves in closed groups (e.g. text, group chats, FaceTime, etc.) and on Snapchat.
This difference is the primary reason young people enjoy using Snapchat and the primary reason adults don’t understand the appeal. Snapchat is not about silly filters or hidden features (those only exist to encourage individuality and expression); it’s about liberation.
Though Facebook and Instagram are popular, their designs — the very ones that make them so viral and addicting — necessarily discourage creative expression. As a result, no amount of feature-copying will ever let Facebook kill Snapchat; for young people, they’re fundamentally different products.
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