I’m late to the party again. Streaming music, sharing photos, sending tweets – you have to go all the way back to Facebook to find when I was last an early adopter of technology. And even then I was carrying around a phone the approximate size of a cinder block. Don’t worry, though, world, I’ve caught up. I’ve downloaded Snapchat.
And I don’t get it.
This isn’t an unexpected turn of events. I didn’t get it before I downloaded it either. I was expecting Snapchat to be a service that married Chatroulette with all the pay phones Tom Cruise used in the Mission Impossible movies. Then it turns out to be photo messages that last only ten seconds? Imagine my disappointment. Even if I can scrawl neon dicks all over the photos, I struggle to see the appeal in the ten-second timer. Unless people start sending me pictures of their knobs, of course. No one wants to see a man’s sturdy knob for more than ten seconds, dude, Jesus Christ, just put it away.
Anyway, I have it now, the app is on my phone and I’ve used it relatively frequently – with people in the same room as me. Here’s the thing I don’t get about Snapchat – when the message has to be a picture and it only lasts ten seconds, how can you effectively gauge your friend’s reactions unless they’re in the room with you?
Case in point, I received a Snap(chat) from a friend of himself eating food. In response, I sent a picture of myself drinking straight from the faucet. LOL! But how does he then let me know that he laughed out loud at my absurdity? Does he send a picture or short video of himself laughing? Does he have to one-up my hilarity? Does he have to send a (Snap)chat of himself slamming a pie into his roomie’s face? Then I’m sending a picture of myself baking cookies shaped like dicks and he’s sending a picture of himself firing a machine gun into a watermelon and suddenly it’s an arms race, one that could have been quickly and simply averted if only we had to capability to respond with a succinct, picture-less “LOL.”
I guess I’m complaining more about the photo message aspect of Snapcat than the silly timer. But ultimately, it’s neither of those things that I struggle with – it’s the impermanence of these messages. The hilarious picture is gone now, lost to the ether or NSA servers. By tomorrow, I’ll barely remember it, this hilarious thing I did, briefly captured, soon forgotten. If it was a traditional picture text, both my friend and I could cherish the image until such time as I accidentally erase my text message history or he shatters his phone with a sledgehammer in a feat of gargantuan strength. In this way, at least, it seems like Snapchat is a step down from current technologies. We’re actively making it more difficult to communicate with each other.
That’s not really a shocking revelation, though. Phone calls can’t convey the facial emotions of an actual conversation. Text messages can’t convey the vocal emotions of a phone call. Picture messages can’t convey the depth of emotion in the written word (but we briefly get facial emotions back!). So it should make some sense that we’d move on to picture messages that suddenly fucking disappear just when you start to figure out what the hell the picture is even showing.
Where do we go next? How do I anticipate the future of communication so I can A. Invent it, or B. At least stop being such a late adopter? Maybe we’ll remove the Snap part of Snapchat and pare the application down to the unintelligible scrawl people garbage up their pictures with. Or better yet, instead of a ten second picture message, there will just be a burst of light that spells out the message in hyper-rapid morse code.
Wait. Does anyone else think that sounds kinda cool? I will definitely be an early adopter of that technology, assuming it doesnt give me seizures or strike me blind. I can picture a future where everyone has these light purple stains around their eyes from reading light code messages. LightCode! That’s the company name. Shit, uh, trademarked. All rights reserved. Copyright.
I am going to be so rich.