Snapchat gets used for sexting a lot. Sure. I get that. I’m not sure, however, if the monstrous volume of messages the service is apparently processing can all be ascribed to sexting. I tested it with a few people, and I have a feeling a big part of the appeal is that it treats photos and video as if they were as ephemeral as texting. Most texts, after all, are things that exist purely in their moment and then become landfill in the back of your phone. Over the years, I’ve several times watched my kid have to shovel out the back of her phone so she has room to receive texts again. Some texts, you want to save, sure. Most, you have to delete after receiving, or go back later to clear them out because they’re just laying there.
It’s not a leap to think that inspecific, fun photos and video messages could be treated the same way. It’s saying hello. For ten seconds. What’s more transient than saying hello? What’s more insubstantial but pleasing, really, than a message meaning “I just thought of you.” You don’t necessarily want or need to permanently store every single instance of someone saying hello.
It’s no wonder Facebook hacked together a competitor in a hurry. That sort of drive-by informational traffic is their wheelhouse. It’s no wonder that more secure variants of the Snapchat idea, like Wickr, are popping up. There’s all kinds of potential in transient self-destructing communication. (There are arguments as to how secure Wickr is, obviously, just as Snapchat itself is not as opaque as it would like to present itself.)
It’s a more interesting idea that you might immediately expect, to bat around, with considerable speed, fast-expiring audiovideo content that doesn’t pile up in your storage.
But, yes, it’s probably used mostly for sexting.
Here’s a thing, though. We used to say that porn was a major driver of online technologies. Here in 2013, though, the vast majority of porn content is home-made or made to appear so. So, perhaps, that old adage still holds true, and the Snapchat experience could be the future of something.
Anyway, I’m going out to drink a lot. And I’ve already deleted the Snapchat app from my phone, for the safety of everyone.