Could A ‘Sexting App’ Revolutionize Photo Sharing?

December 18, 2012
I would have never posted something like this to my Facebook. But it gave a friend a good lawl.

I would have never posted something like this to my Facebook. But it gave a friend a good lawl.

There’s an app called Snapchat, perhaps you’ve heard of it. If you’re older than 21 and haven’t heard of Snapchat, you can thank me later for serving up another “Ugh, I feel old” reference.

The app allows you to take photos and send them to a controlled list of recipients. Then, POOF, after up to 10 seconds the photos self-destruct — disappearing from your phone and the recipients’ phone, too.

I know what you’re thinking: “Man, Anthony Weiner should have had this app.” Yes, most tech writers have dubbed this the “sexting app.” So why do I think what others call a “sexing app” could revolutionize how we create and consume online media? Hear me out.

We spend a lot of time uploading the perfect photos, with the perfect captions, creating the perfect versions of ourselves. It’s exhausting. I don’t claim to be above the fray and not partake in this online-persona crafting, but for the first time, I feel like there’s a way to be the real me without worrying about the judgment, guilt and fear that comes along with the permanency of posting online media.

I don’t use Snapchat to send dirty pictures to random internet dweebs. I use it to send funny, reactionary, timely photos to my close friends. Photos that would not make the cut for my carefully crafted online reputation management happening on my Facebook page, but photos that are less perfect, more lighthearted, and more real—more me.

Here’s an example of some trivial snaps by me and my friends:

Yes, I committed the highest Snapchat crime by screenshotting these. Somehow, Snapchat is even able to notify the sender when someone screenshots their photo.

Yes, I committed the highest Snapchat crime by screenshotting these. Somehow, Snapchat is even able to notify the sender when someone screenshots their photo.

So, if everyone calls it the “sexting app,” but I don’t use it for that, I got wondering, “Are me and my not-so-youngish-anymore friends the only ones not using Snapchat for sexting?” Where would I go to find the answer to such a question?

Omegle.com, where else! (Reference “Ugh, I feel old” #2.) This is a one-on-one online chat room that pairs you up with random strangers (like Chatroulette but more texted based). Yes, more often than not you’ll find creepers only interested in having conversations that are, well let’s just say, NSFW. Lucky for me I found some nice strangers willing to answer my, “Do you use Snapchat? If yes, how and why?” question.

This may not be respectable journalism at its best, but to prove my point, let’s look at a response from an anonymous 18 year old male:

OmegleChat

Case in point.

For those thinking, “Well I use Instagram for all my photo sharing,” yesterday’s big change to Instagram’s privacy policy and terms of service, especially the “Rights” section which now poses the “you could star in an advertisement – without your knowledge” clause might be enough to make users think twice about sharing their photos. And this worry about how a user’s data and photos will be capitalized on by mega-social sharing sites is nothing new. And it’s a worry that, as of now, Snapchat users don’t have.

It might be hard to envision a world without permanent photos, but just 10 years ago it would have been hard to imagine a world without printed photos. While digital has allowed us to take a gabillion more photos, we also put less stock and importance into the photos we take. Way beyond my own use of the app, my Omegle research taught me that teenagers are using Snapchat to take and share hundreds of trivial photos a day – with zero attachment to the importance and permanency behind the photos. It’s a complete shift and evolution in our relationship with photography – not far off from what we saw with the introduction of digital.

So I’ll say it again, I think there’s big opportunity for Snapchat to move more into the mainstream as a go to tool for obsessively communicating about trivial, fun things without the weight and baggage that comes with the permanency of other channels.

So, how about you make my day; send me a snap at LizardBrain86.

*Really not sold on the mainstream-ability in this app? Maybe this news released a few days ago about Facebook launching its own impermanent messaging application built directly into the site will have an impression.