I really didn’t get Snapchat. I understood the appeal of limited consequence sexting to teens and young adults, of course. But I always knew that was a lie.
Absent that, Snapshat is just the umpteenth messaging app. Just another social networking tool, to be celebrated by the hyperfickle digerati, and abandoned just as readily in favor of the next next-big-thing.
Then Snapchat said no to a $3B acquisition offer from Facebook. Everyone was focused on the apparently arrogant people at Snapchat who turned that offer down, but I was intrigued by the apparently smart people at Facebook who made it in the first place.
What does Mark Zuckerberg and his team see in this stupid mobile app? Determined to find out, I signed up. Here’s what I learned in a couple weeks:
Only 6 people over 40 are on Snapchat. Now 7, but it’s more of a dinner party than a frat party. If you’re old enough to worry about the impact Snapchat is going to have on your kids, the truth is it’s probably not a medium that’s going to add much value to your life (depending of course, on what you and your spouse are into. Ahem.)
The app is about images first, and text second. This is undoubtedly part of the appeal to my eldest daughter’s demographic. I’ve noticed that she and her friends think Facebook and Twitter are for narcissistic know-it-alls, people convinced the world cares about their every idle musing. For them, writing - even 140 characters worth - is just trying a little too hard. Instagram offers all the self expression they crave, without the self-consciousness of which they are terrified. That’s why it became a billion dollar business.
Snapchat isn’t a social app at all. It’s kind of the opposite of a social app. It’s a one-on-one communications channel, designed to be quick, visual, and - above all - ephemeral.
And that’s the key to understanding its appeal.
When I was a kid, the sword held over my head was that of an indiscretion severe enough to go on my “permanent record.” [cue ominous tone] Our kids have grown up in a world where 80% of everything they’ve ever said to anyone is on a permanent record of sorts… out there floating around on the Internet someplace, in ways we’ve warned them time and time again will keep them out of others good graces, out of the colleges they want, out of the jobs they’re going to need at some point down the road when the party’s over.
What would a communication channel that offered the promise of freedom from that tyranny be worth?
Apparently something a little north of $3 Billion.