Snapchat, that app all the old people are afraid the young folk are using for sexting, announced early this morning that they’re adding two new features: instant messaging and video.
How will it work? From “Team Snapchat”: “Swipe right on a friend’s name in your Snapchat inbox to start chatting. When you leave the chat screen, messages viewed by both you and your friend will be cleared — but either of you can always tap or screenshot to save anything you’d like to keep (addresses, to-do lists, etc.)!” Essentially, this is exactly the same thing as text messaging, but with the default setting being that the conversation will be erased unless you actively save it, instead of the conversation automatically being saved unless you actively delete it.
As for the video, “We let you know when a friend is Here in your Chat so that you can give each other your full attention. And if you’re both Here, simply press and hold to share live video — and Chat face-to-face!” The video can be either a conversation or just a one-way video message.
Maybe you are thinking that this whole thing seems a bit redundant: if people want to instant message, they can already text, and if people want video, there’s already Facetime. (Maybe you’re just thinking, wow, Team Snapchat could ease up on the exclamation points.) But there’s something about Snapchat, or at least the idea of it, that’s so appealing. Big data is always watching us, cookies trail behind us as we blaze through the internet like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs, the NSA is all-seeing and all-knowing, and it’s all-creepy. The joke that no one under the age of 30 will be able to run for President because of embarrassing and/or incriminating Facebook photos has been going around for years.
Even though the words, images and video on Snapchat do not actually vanish into the ether — you can take a screenshot, though the person whose image or message you saved will be notified that you did, and it’s not hard to imagine all the Snapchats stored on some server, out there somewhere — it feels like they do. And, assuming all your fellow Snapchatters abide by the spirit of the app, you can text freely, comforted by the thought that you will not be haunted forever by that one thing you said one time.
There is the caveat that Snapchat doesn’t even really “delete” your photos. The metadata is, in fact, stored, and could be recovered through forensic analysis. And don’t forget that Snapchat could be sold to a third party at any moment, and the Snapchat as we know it could vanish (actually vanish, not Snapchat-style-vanish), your data up for grabs to the highest bidder.
I think we as modern humans have reached a point at which we know the data never really “disappears” just like we know all magazine covers are photoshopped. Haven’t we? Just in case, so you know: don’t put any actual secrets in a Snapchat. It will be gone like a ghost, which is to say, it will linger around wrecking havoc on the dark room that is your life.
Besides, there’s still pleasure to be mined from the illusion of the ephemeral, even though we know it isn’t real. The vibe of Snapchat, right down to the catchy, cutesy name, is a lighter, more carefree tone than any other messaging medium. The way you can draw on your pictures before you send them only amps up that playground feeling; it’s like everything you’re drawing is just sidewalk chalk that’ll be gone the next time it rains.
Here’s the video on Snapchat’s homepage now, revealing the feature to the tune of “Young Hearts” by Strange Talk and, classic move, using a puppy to win us all over.