Short-term photograph-based communication causes conflict between privacy and pleasure among millennial Snapchat users

In 2011, two students at Stanford University created a new app that would allow individuals to share selfies or other pictures that were what they called "short-lived" and "self-deleting." This app, now known as Snapchat, is the third most used social media network among millennials, succeeding only to Facebook and Instagram. With 20 million messages being shared daily, this popular messaging system's main goal is to provide a fun environment with a more natural interaction amongst its users.

Though Snapchat has been praised for its light-hearted atmosphere and convenience, it has also been scrutinized for its lack of security and vulnerability. Yet, at least 70% of adults aged 18 to 34 continue to post on Snapchat at least once a day. So, if the videos, pictures, and other messages users send and receive can be accessed by virtually anyone, then why do most individuals still use the application with little to no hesitation?

Temporary messaging systems are popular because of a false sense of privacy 

A study conducted by Dr. Waddell of the University of Florida found that ephemeral, or short term, messaging systems are increasing in popularity because of the perceived privacy they provide. After interviewing 22 adults between the ages of 18 and 22, the general consensus was that the privacy settings that accompany temporary messaging systems such as Snapchat makes them as users more comfortable to share their content with their friends and family.

The privacy settings that Snapchat provides includes stories consisting of photos, videos, and chats that will automatically "disappear" after 24 hours. Also, the social network has other privacy features such as allowing users to block other individuals, allowing users to hand pick who they want to view their story, and allowing users to decide who can send them content on Snapchat.

Dr. Waddell found that these features boost the users' confidence concerning the privacy of their shared media. In other words, the satisfaction users get from using Snapchat outweighs the concern for the possible risk of their content being shared with someone other than the original receiver.

Interviews with young adults identifies personal pleasures gained from using Snapchat 

The purpose of Dr. Waddell's research was to figure out what gratifications, or self pleasures, motivate young adults to use Snapchat. To asses this, Dr. Waddell questioned each of the 22 young adults individually for no more than 30 minutes.

He found that the self-pleasure young adults experienced from using Snapchat came from three sources: the ability to maintain privacy (or to believe this is being done), the ability to express themselves freely, and the ability to create a sense of community.

Participants resonated with the idea that they are able to express themselves however they want on snapchat, knowing that the 10 second long picture or video will "disappear" after the allotted time. Also, participants appreciated the connection Snapchat helps its users to create with friends and family that they can't interact with face to face on a daily basis.

Individuals continue to use snapchat even though it may not provide complete privacy 

Many participants in Dr. Waddell's study admitted to believing that Snapchat isn't as private as it markets itself to be. While completing the interview, some of the young adults still felt skeptical about their shared content actually "disappearing."

Most of the participants believed that no matter what privacy settings Snapchat has put in place, their information could still be retrieved. Also, the skeptical participants were the ones who admitted to being more censored about the photos, videos, and chats that they send to their friends and family. Yet, even when considering the risks of their content being retrieved, none of students stopped using the application completely.

The graph to the right depicts how young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 interact with Snapchat. As shown, the primary reason for their use of Snapchat is communication. So, even though their privacy could be invaded, young adults believe that being able to communicate with friends and family in a fun way is more important, primarily because it creates a sense of community for them.

Snapchat has proven to be beneficial for higher education

With the primary Snapchat users being between the ages of 16 and 25, educators are finding new and innovative was to incorporate this messaging system into their lesson plans. Snapchat's popularity is only increasing among millennials, making it hard for educators to grasp their students' attention while in the classroom.

Professors who have adopted the "if you can't be them, join them" attitude about Snapchat have decided to take snaps (photos/videos) of what they're teaching or going to teach in class. They have even resorted to trying to find real life examples of their lessons to make the snaps more engaging and relatable. Most educators found that [for them] using Snapchat was a big adjustment, but a necessary one to help their students succeed.

College students who have used Snapchat for educational purposes agree that the app has helped them boost their grades and be more productive in class. They found that the personalization their professors incorporated into the snaps they posted helped make learning the class content more efficient and enjoyable.

With new apps being created everyday, who knows how much longer Snapchat will be around. But, for now, the app remains one of the top forms of temporary photograph-based communication among millennials, and shows no signs of slowing down.

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