In defense of Snapchat, a manifesto

Image: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

YeahI’m a business and tech reporter, who reports on social media networks. And in order to do the job correctly, it’s on me to maintain a degree of objective remove. That said: I’m not a reporting robot without ideas, preferences, or a life beyond my gig. And while part of that job also involves spending time on social networks, like all of you, (A) I still do it for fun, and (B) If you looked at my phone, it’d be pretty obvious what my favorite social networks are, and how I spend my time using them.

Here’s a good snapshot:

Which brings us to Facebook, down there, towards the bottom of my usage. They just unleashed their latest attempt to squash Snapchat on Tuesday with Facebook Storiesthe experience of Snapchat Stories, now available on your Facebook News Feed, something nearly 2 billion people could have access to, if you let them. There’s more about that here.

It’s nothing new. Snapchat’s faced down a full-on assault for your attention from Facebook-owned properties, in the forms of Instagram Stories, Messenger Day and WhatsApp Stories, each trying to replicate the very things that make Snapchat, well, Snapchat, but under a different, Facebook-owned app.

Instagram Stories is, thus far, the big winner, with everyone from the network’s most influential creators to its most typical users embracing the feature. Instagram Stories went from 0 to 150 million monthly active users in six months. My colleague, Mashable deputy tech editor Damon Beres, is one of those culprits, and openly admits it (“My #thirst has driven me to abandon Snapchat for Instagram Stories“).

Damon found that “Instagram’s rate of coolness per capita is higher than Snapchat’s. There’s just a bigger audience of interesting people to communicate with on Instagram.”

‘Kay, fine. Fair. But let’s be totally clear: Damon’s saying that he’s Team Instagram because his account is getting what he feels are more highly-valued views.

Thing is, I’m Team Snapchat for the exact same reason.

“Snapchat,” continued Damon, “will likely remain my favorite app for sending incredibly weird things to a handful of close friendsits selection of stickers, face-transforming filters, geolocation tags and so forth.”

And that’s exactly my point, and why Snapchat’s the more valuable of the two appsbecause the mouthbreathing annony-succubi followers of Instagram (especially Damon’s, lol) might be more proliferate, and might be more influential, but I still don’t really know nor care who the fuck any of ’em are.

Snapchat’s where my friends areyes, my real friends. On Facebook and Instagram, I’ll add you as a friend, and you can feel free to stalk my high school photos. I don’t really care. But when it comes to my life, in real-time, in the momentwhat I do every day before work, or after work? That’s on Snapchat.

But when it comes to my life, in real-time, in the moment, when it comes to what I do every day before work, or after work? That’s on Snapchat.

And I’m not inviting you in, unless you gain my trust. It’s kind of like building sources as a journalist: I’m giving you access to my personal life. And yeah, you could take a screenshot of my Snapchat, and share it to the world. And while I’ll know that you did it, it’d be too late to take it back. So as far as my Snapchat’s concerned, you need to be vetted before I let you in.

That’s not to say I’m doing anything too racy and posting it to my Snapchat Story. In fact, that’s another reason why I love the app. For the people that do enjoy seeing it, who I very much trust with my private life, I can send them personal messages. They disappear. And that’s great. They don’t have it saved on their phone because they honestly don’t need it there.

And neither do I.

Shocker: I sext. I’ve sent my fair share of nudes to boyfriends and to others. I’m not ashamed. And if you’re wondering why I don’t just text them, it’s because Snapchat just makes it way more comfortable for us all. Like I said: I don’t need these on my phone, and neither do they. And if they doit happensthey can screenshot. All the more flattery, to be honest.

To be sure, I was once a Snapchat hater, too. One of my best friends tried to convince me to download it in 2012, while I was a sophomore in college. I told her I was too busy with school. Still, I downloaded the app four months later, and I don’t regret it.

To be sure, I was a Snapchat hater too once upon a time.

And while I report on Snapchatas well as other tech companiesfor a living, it’s not reporting on Snapchat that makes me love Snapchat.

What I love about Snapchat is the joy it provides me. I go to Facebook if I want to stalk my ex or a high school classmate. It not funthere’s no real joy in itbut it’s cursory, I do it anyway. I go to Snapchat when I want to genuinely see what my friends are doing. Sure, it creates FOMO; but it’s also an opportunity for me to easily reach out or reply with a funny face or sticker or Bitmoji. It’s a different language, for me and my friends. Not the randos in my life.

And I love Snapchat for the news and the stories it shares. Beyond watching whatever my Snapchat friends are doing, the app (usually) presents me with daily, well-packaged content from media brands, like, say, Mashable’s (Disclosure: Mashable is a Snapchat Discover partner) are enjoyable reads, or tap-throughs.

On Facebook, most of the time, news articles come with obnoxious commentary from friends. My brother-in-law leaves an angry reaction on everything I post (okay, I know, it’s a joke). But: It’s just not fun. If I want to read news through a filtered bubble, I’ll go to my Twitter.

Snapchat’s breaking news coverage is also an incredible product in and of itself. Props to Peter Hamby, Snap’s head of news, for making sure they curate stories with smart news judgment (*cough* Facebook Trending Topics disaster *cough*). It’s pretty inarguable: Snapchat’s got some of the best news coverage on social media.

And the lenses. I know Facebook copied your lenses, Snapchat. But damn, your puppy filter will always bring me joyno matter if Facebook completely mimics it. I’ll never forget the many times I’ve played around with filters with my exes, my best friends, and my mom.

Lenses are fairly new on Snapchat, as in the last two years, but they embody the Snapchat aestheticone they’ve been developing for the last five years.

I’m a confessed, admitted Snapchat fangirlnot unlike those “Apple fanboys” you might be familiar with. Shamelessness goes both ways, guys.

I remember when Snapchat first began selling merchandise branded with Ghostface Chillah (that ghost logo of theirs, who I love, and who you secretly love, too). I immediately requested for everyone to buy me everything. Now, I’m the proud owner of an Official Snapchat Ice Tray. It makes Ghostface Chillah-shaped ice. Which, of course, eventually melts away. Perfect.

Of course I own Spectacles. I carry them in my bag with me everyday. I don’t wear them oftenmostly because I’ve got pretty bad eyesight, and I haven’t gotten prescription lenses because I just don’t want to be separated from my Spectacles for too long.

But I love them. I love wearing them to partiesI Snapped moments of my friend’s wedding. I wore them around Universal Studios. They’re absurd, sure. But they’re also a uniquely fun way to show the world what you’re living through, the moment you’re living through it.

And I absolutely loved their release. Snapbots: Those minion-looking vending machines, dropped in arbitrary locations around the country? They’re fun, dorky, ridiculous, and unique to Snapchat’s strange aesthetic. Instagram and Facebook have rarely had a tangible, real-world presence. Snapchat wants to make itself real in the world off of our phones.

As of this week, there are Stories in the Facebook News Feed. Which brings us back to the elephant in the room where Snapchat’s concerned: Instagram.

And I hate Instagram.

Go to my Instagram feed, which I think is public? Honestly, don’t know, and not gonna check. I love going to my Instagram feed and viewing the posts and Stories of the accounts I follow. Why? Because they’re mostly fluffy puppies. Go check out Chloe the Mini Frenchie and Teddy the Corgi. They’re the reason that I’m a weekly active user of Instagram.

I hate that Instagram is all about the number of likes and followers. I hate the Kardashians.

Instagram isn’t my go-to social network, and I’m pretty confident it never will be. Because, to be quite honest, I hate filtering my life. I hate the vain, highly-styled, carefully-crafted, unsurprising, deliberate nature of it. I hate that it’s a network all about the number of likes and followers. And I hate the Kardashians.

I know Snapchat isn’t perfect. Their racially-insensitive and scientifically-inaccurate lenses are, uh, not a good look. The fact that they don’t really prioritize Android devices and instead cater to iPhone users is just kind of weird at this stage. And I don’t like that they have a weirdly one-way, non-supportive relationship with its creators. I know from speaking to many of the most popular Viner users that this strategy didn’t work out well for themor Vine, either. And of course: Evan Spiegel said some bad shit in college. Snap’s also never released a workplace diversity report, unlike their peers in the tech industry. So, it goes without saying: They’ve got some work to do.

And yeah, at the end of the day, it’s just an app.

But these platforms are also places we’re spending increasing amounts of time in every daythey’re frames that we’re living our lives through, articulating something, creating something, sending some part of us out into the world. And so much more than its contemporaries, Snapchat, if nothing else, stands for things: Authenticity. Spontaneity. And that’s why I love Snapchat. It’s where you’ll find me at my most authentic. It’s where you’ll actually get to know who I really am.

If I let you, of course.

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