Can you imagine sending a selfie to thirty people over Facebook messenger unprompted? Take yourself back to 2010. Pockets were filled with everything from a flip phone to an iPhone. Wifi wasn’t a right of passage everywhere you went, and Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton were few of the many victims of sex tape and nude photo leaks. In addition to the “birds and bees” conversation parents had with their teenagers, the “what is and is not appropriate to post online” was another big talk to cross off the list.
In 2011, provocative photo and selfie senders alike were given a shining beacon of hope: Snapchat. An app designed to have photos live for up to 10 seconds and never appear again was almost too perfect for those who wanted their photos to be seen but not documented. If someone did indeed screenshot a photo from Snapchat, the sender was notified. The beauty of Snapchat was that it not only gave people the ability to send “moments,” but it gave the sender the ability to know exactly how his/her photo was received- was it simply viewed? Or did the other person save it? Snapchat was also a great way to let your friends know where you were without having to text them.
On top of being the perfect outlet for those who wanted to send risqué photos and spam our timelines with selfies, Snapchat normalized sending photo updates of the mundane moments in life: riding in a car, walking through a park, chugging a beer. Snapchat was different than Instagram and Facebook in that you weren’t “clogging” people’s timelines if you frequently posted. Snapchat also captured the reality of the moment the poster was in- although you could of course filter it. Instagram was there for people to retroactively post an edited and glorified picture of either the past or present, but Snapchat was the app for the here and now.
That is, until July 6, 2016. A new feature “Memories” was introduced, and this feature has redefined what the app will be for its users going forward. While all of our social media outlets have certainly evolved over time, Snapchat has changed frequently and drastically. Memories is perhaps the most drastic change because instead of the platform capturing current moments, users are allowed to send out photos from the past via a “memories” library. Users can not only access photos that they have saved on the app, but they can access photos from their camera roll that were taken separately from Snapchat. Snapchat, which has been our unfailing present-time tracker, is no longer purely “present.”
Lastly, the “Memories” feature takes away the authenticity of the photos that are being shared. The fact that this new feature gives users the ability to access his or her photo library means that the photos and videos being used could have come from anywhere. Before Memories launched, users had to be the ones to take the content they were sharing. The pictures we have in our library can be photos friends have sent us, photos from Google images, or photos we have taken outside of the app. The type of content Snapchat allows us to share now is therefore less authentic. Choosing to use photos from our photo library is far more pre-meditated than snapping what is happening right in front of you.
The memories feature certainly adds a new dynamic to Snapchat, and I believe that it has changed the app’s purpose in the social media landscape. Snapchat, while still a great selfie and “moment” outlet, is far less geared towards these posts now. The Memories feature also makes the app less conducive to sending out real time updates of where you are, which makes meeting up with friends or “running into” the guy you like far easier. With the addition of geo-tags and filters, the app’s core purpose of depicting a moment was still in tact. These features simply let the user add an additional level of commentary or color to their post. However, I can’t find a purpose for the Memories feature when it comes to user experience. We have Facebook and Instagram to depict our past, however nothing other than Snapchat to depict the immediate present.
The app could be looking to have a larger piece in the social media user pie, or maybe they will plan on monetizing this memories feature. When it comes to me as the user- I not only don’t see value in Memories, but I think it clouds the app’s purpose. Time will reveal not only users’ reaction to this new feature, but Snapchat’s plans for how the feature fits into the overall function and purpose of the app.