Snapchat: Made for communication, now used for social exhibition

Since its inception, the app Snapchat has become a common means of communication globally. Snapchat began as a picture sharing app with the ability to have a photo sent and then quickly deleted. The app now boasts a location sharing map and a global discover feature, making it much more than the basic communication app it started as.

Each user can choose a time between one second and infinity for how long their photo stays on the recipient’s screen once opened. If the receiver chooses infinity, and then closes the picture, they cannot reopen it unless the picture in question was posted by the sender as a story. The story feature on Snapchat is where users post pictures for all of their friends to see for a 24-hour period.

Saumya Vaidyanathan, a 23-year-old Snapchat user, prefers Snapchat stories to private Snapchats. “I want people to know what I’m up to,” she said.

She is not alone in wanting to show people what she is doing in her spare time. In 1899, Thorstein Veblen introduced the idea of conspicuous leisure. His theory suggested that people involve themselves in visible leisure activities to attain a higher social status. With apps such as Snapchat, people’s involvement in conspicuous leisure becomes easier.

“I’ve posted snaps with the intent of someone specific seeing it,” Vaidyanathan said. Like many others, Saumya admitted to sharing with the specific intention of showing her friends, sometimes specific people, that she spends her leisure time doing productive and exciting activities. Her reason? “I want them to think I’m thriving.”

Unlike social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat does not have a feature recognizing if someone has “liked” or reacted to your post. The reactions available on Facebook and Instagram can act as validation for some people. More likes could be understood as more friends and more popularity.

Vaidyanathan, like many young adults, admitted that this is one of the reasons she prefers making Snapchat stories instead of Facebook or Instagram posts. Without a reaction feature, Snapchat users are free to share as many photos as they want without the pressure of receiving feedback. This may lead to the oversharing of day-to-day activities to create the image of an active and fulfilling lifestyle.

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