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Snapping into the spotlight

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The first time I ever saw a stylish girl — tall brown boots, straightened hair, fresh makeup and all — taking “selfies” in Club Clem I was astonished. I thought selfies were reserved for insecure, acne-ridden 13-year-olds or the muscle-bound jerks of MySpace. Apparently, I was wrong.

Before I go on, let me explain to you just what selfies are. These are pictures taken of, and by, the same person. In the past this was semi-difficult to do, given all that was available were flip-phones and traditional cameras. With the dawn of the front camera on the iPhone and other smartphones, however, selfies have become significantly easier to take with relative success — hence, the emergence of selfie-inspired apps such as Snapchat.

Snapchat, the brainchild of a team of Stanford students, was launched in September of 2011. Since then, the Californian basement born project has taken off across the States — to the point that last May 25 “snaps” were sent every second, according to Snapchat. These so-called “snaps” are pictures, taken by the sender, that he or she can edit using the text and a pencil tool within the app. The sender can then send their “masterpiece,” as the Snapchat creators refer to it, to as many or few of their contacts as they wish. Here’s the catch: The viewer can only see it for a maximum of 10 seconds before it disappears for eternity.

But why would anyone want to send a picture that can only last a maximum of 10 seconds before disappearing? Why not just send a regular picture message via text?

Some say the appeal lies in the newfound ability to send ugly or unsuitable for Facebook — e.g. those including alcohol — images to senders that are safe from social media outlets and frat houses. The one downfall, however, comes when users figure out how to take a screenshot of a snap. Snapchat will technically allow screenshots to be taken, though it discourages capturing these fleeting photos by requiring recipients to hold a finger on the screen while viewing a snap. This is in attempt to keep fingers too occupied to press the two buttons necessary to take a screen shot. Should all else fail, Snapchat sends a message to the sender letting them know a permanent keepsake was captured Those Stanford kids are smart, huh?

Though Snapchat is a fun tool for telling friends where you are, capturing a funny moment, or just making silly faces, concerns have been raised that this app is actually being used as a means of “sexting” — the act of taking nude photos of one’s self and sending them as a form of sexual flirtation. As an avid Snapchat user, I would like to firmly assert that this is not the way Snapchat is used on Grounds. Snapchat is a lighthearted interface designed to bring users closer together, and crass snaps are rare to nonexistent.

“Snapchat is less serious than Skype, but more personal than merely texting,” fourth-year College student Ainsley Lastner said.

Now, instead of sending a text saying, “Hey, we should grab coffee,” a boy who is interested in me can send a picture of himself with a mug in hand and text displaying his request right on the picture. By using Snapchat, this suitor can then see the exact moment I open the picture, giving me added incentive to respond quickly so as not to appear rude. He also reminds me how cute he is and how unattractive my homework is. Guess who wins that battle?

Snapchat is here to stay — as long as it keeps its current formatting and, like Facebook, updates colors for the pencil tool and makes other minor improvements every so often to keep users involved. When it really comes down to it, who wouldn’t want to see my face when I ask them to join me at Coupes? Exactly.


Published February 13, 2013 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau







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