feature image via Snapchat.
I am your technology columnist. I teach an undergraduate course on social media for writers — hell, I came up with this course, I made it myself. And still, deep in my soul, I do not understand Snapchat. My fiancée is ONE YEAR YOUNGER than me and she does. I use it mostly to send and receive photos of my cats, and usually only with my fiancée because she’s the one who sent something to me. This has led me to calling it Snapcats. She also showed me how to get the weird faces on my face (press and hold my face while taking a selfie).
I think my resistance to it is the ugly, clunky interface and tacky output aesthetic. I want clean and bright, not a cluttered throwback to the early web with its blinky text and spinning klip art. I might not have minded this a few years ago. The line between 27 and 28 seems like an arbitrary line, but I think we found it — 28 is my lower limit for “too old to interact with Snapchat.”
Except I do not accept this. I love new internet toys, and this one ain’t even new. I think it’s time. I think I finally need to figure out Snapchat. This realization made me Google the phrase “Snapchat for Old People.” Here is what I found, and here is what I did with that information.
First find: “Snapchat for Old People,” by Tim Cigelske, the social media director of Marquette University. One of the mental hurdles I can’t get over is why I would want to share a grainy, cheesy version of a photo instead of a nice looking one on Instagram. In the helpful Etiquette section of this quick, five minute read, I found this sentence: “Snapchat was designed to share a more raw and vulnerable version of yourself.” Well okay. Perhaps that’s another reason for my resistance. I’m extremely calculated (most of the time — there have been a few slip ups) about what I share on the internet and how I share it. I’m also a writer — I save the raw and vulnerable parts of myself for longer works, usually of fiction to place some distance between me and it. Snapchat seems to be built originally for those less calculated — the photos and videos disappear after all — and more comfortable with bringing their entire selves to the internet. I bring my entire self to my journal. I think it’s just a difference in viewpoint — maybe that explains why I’m comfortable using Snapchat with my fiancée and almost no one else. But what I learned from this piece is that just because it wasn’t built that way doesn’t mean it can’t be used that way — this is all about how a University is using this in a calculated way to communicate with current and prospective students. So. If I weren’t already convinced I needed to know and use Snapchat, I am now.
Second find: “16 Things Old People Don’t Understand About Snapchat,” by Caitlin Scott. This one is on Cosmo and is basically making fun of me, so I didn’t learn as much from it. But I did learn that old and young have become nouns when I wasn’t looking. Fascinating!
Third find: “Is Snapchat Really Confusing, Or Am I Just Old?” by Will Oremus for Slate. Though this is a year old, the opening to this piece made me feel seen and heard — “There is no excuse, at this point, for a professional technology writer to be confused by Snapchat.” But it addresses some of the UI problems that I feel Snapchat DEFINITELY has. It’s also really funny and mirrors my exact bumbling when I open Snapchat. It also treated the impenetrability of the UI as almost a secret, coded young language. It’s part of the appeal, like a secret handshake. Which reminded me that, like any other language, the best way to learn it is to practice it. It also featured people admitting that, even though they use it, they find it cryptic as well, which was a comfort. It also introduced me to the concept of something called “Snapcash,” which I had to put out of my mind because it broke my brain and I need to focus on one thing at a time. While reading this, I used my “Story” for the first time and I tapped the settings gear to enable “Filters,” which requires location. I’m sure my phone will die even faster now.
Fourth find: “How Snapchat is targeting the over-35 crowd,” by Paresh Dave for the LA Times. This actually isn’t about using Snapchat as much as it is about Snapchat’s intentionally-mysterious billboards (yellow with the ghost logo) that make curious people turn to others and ask “wtf is that?” The olds (as I’m now understanding we’re called) ask the youngs or they ask Google, and the extra work to get a satisfying explanation is actually genius. It’s essentially assuring social marketing by deputizing everyone who’s in the know as a company spokesperson, something people are happy to do because people enjoy being on the inside. It’s fucking genius, actually. It’s about this time that I realized I had enabled “filters,” but I didn’t know how to use them. So then I had to Google “how to use Snapchat filters.”
Which brings me to my fifth find: “How to use Snapchat new features: Snapchat adds new face swap feature, Chat 2.0, Emoji stickers for video,” by Chris Martin for PC Advisor. Bless this post. Not only did it teach me how to use filters (swipe either left or right), it introduced me to features I didn’t know existed, like the ability to pin Emoji to a video and it moves around with you (I used this for literal heart eyes, which I will not include here because I DON’T KNOW HOW TO SAVE THIS VIDEO TO MY PHONE LALALALA). Did you know Snapchat has video and audio calling as a thing that can happen? I DIDN’T EITHER. You can also reply to specific snaps in your friends stories by swiping up from the bottom while it’s playing. There’s also a trophy case (swipe down and tap the trophy at the top of the screen) and y’all know how much I love badges. While reading, I spontaneously figured out how to change how text captions look (cycle through by pressing the T button after you take a photo).
My sixth find, “Snapchat Now Lets You Send Money To Friends Through Snapcash Deal With Square Cash,” by Josh Constantine for TechCrunch, is the direct result of my trying to unbreak my brain from earlier. WTF is Snapcash? It’s basically like Venmo, except it’s all done through Snapchat. Here is the video:
The other thing that broke my brain about this is that’s it’s been around since 2014 and I didn’t know about it.
And finally, Advanced Snapchat: make your own Geofilters. Yep. You can do that. I’m at AEOsworth, y’all. Come find me.