I am not the snapchat type. I prefer books, code, and UIs that let me drive, think about what I’m doing, and build things over time. But with two of my kids off to college and Snapchat their preferred method of communication, I’m snapchatting.
What strikes me about the app, is the emotional bang for the buck it provides. Low overhead – down in the tenth-of-a-second range – as well as nothing to organize later, nothing to store, and no definite expectation of response makes the ‘cost’ of using the app in terms of time, effort and responsibility almost zero. The gratification of getting a snap unexpectedly (usually they seem not to be part of an ongoing conversation) or of seeing that one of your friends or family has viewed or saved your snap is fairly high, especially when its a photo of a distant family member.
Spontaneity is another plus. Silliness is encouraged both by the app itself (filters, face swaps, etc) and by the sense of impermanence. One might hesitate to post a dog-whiskered, clown-nosed version of oneself to a online photo album, but the sense that this is like a voice conversation that will disappear, encourages fun and a sense of intimacy. Its a bit like being with the person, but only for a brief moment.
So I can appreciate these features, and I like snapchat for what it is. It leaves me wanting, though, because I want to build a deeper and more complex structure than this sort of moment allows. I want conversation, work, memories, feedback, and the sense of creating something together.
Perhaps if Snapchat can capture the feeling of a fun, shallow conversation, another app can better enable the fun of working creatively together. I would love to be able to save things to long term threads that I am working on with distant friends and family, to work on projects and pick up on them at any moment exactly where I left them off, and have my context snap back into place, and find the feedback that others may have left on ideas or bits of work I left waiting for them. And I’d love to be surprised with a response to a thread I left dangling a month ago, that moves a loved but dustbin’d project forward a step.
I can wish, can’t i?