The decline of Snapchat and the secret joy of internet ghost towns

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Perhaps more than anything else, what has sucked all of the joy out of the social internet in its current form is its exhortation to be useful. We have arrived at a version where everything seems to be just another version of LinkedIn. Every online space is supposed to get you a job or a partner or a stronger personal brand so you can accomplish the big, public-record goals of life. The public marketplace is everywhere. It’s an interactive and immersive CV, an archive. It all counts, and it all matters.

First in the era of America Online, and then in the era of LiveJournal and micro-blogging, the internet was at least partly an escape. It was a place where the boundaries of real life, in which everything was more or less a job interview, could be sloughed off and one could imagine the internet as a quiet, uninhabited space of whispered intimacies. In this era of hyper-usefulness, what seems rarest and most valuable online are spaces that offer, however illusorily, a return to this original uselessness. There are places where, against the constant obligation to be seen and remembered, we might get to be unseen, unrecorded, and forgotten.

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You Up? College in the Age of Tinder

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Dating apps may have killed the college dating scene. Because it’s so easy to swipe left or right on a seemingly endless pile of potential partners, it’s become harder to actually meet anyone. As students, we are told over and over that college is a time for us to expand our social groups, to meet new people and grow into adults. But the indecisiveness that is built into dating app culture can stunt us — we’re trapped in an endless cycle of swipes! Commitment, already a scary concept to many, becomes even more difficult with the false illusion that the dating possibilities are endless.

Frankly, dating apps can also just make things incredibly awkward.

While single students at Mercer University use dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, Snapchat reigns as the most eye-roll-eliciting app for sparking college romance. To know if Brian is interested in a serious relationship or a casual fling, read the time stamp on his flirtatious Snapchat message. The same Snap asking to “hang out” sent at 2 p.m. can have a completely different meaning when sent at 2 a.m.

Selfies, Snapchat and sassy ladies: a teen’s guide to social media

Lucia Hagan

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Facebook is over

There are only two types of social media anyone my age uses: Snapchat and Instagram. Snapchat is for giving everyone a constant insight into your life, without it being as annoying as posting loads of videos and photos on to Instagram (Snapchat posts disappear). Instagram is basically the same thing, except your uploads are more spaced out. The only people I know who use Facebook are my parents; mostly it’s a place where people dump their non-Instagram-worthy pictures every couple of months.

I use YouTube quite a lot, usually to watch makeup tutorials, but I always end up clicking through different videos until I end up on a weird conspiracy theory (usually Shane Dawson’s web series, where he covered the killer clowns). That’s when I know it’s time to stop.

The Unspoken Rules Kids Create for Instagram

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In one focus group I held recently with seventh-grade girls in an affluent suburb, all the girls were avid Instagram and Snapchat users. It was clear that they understood the dynamic of presenting a persona through the images they posted. It was also clear that they had a definite set of “rules” about pictures.

Aware of their privileged socioeconomic status, they talked about how it would not be O.K. to share vacation pictures of a fancy hotel. They used an example of a classmate who had violated this rule. Like many unspoken social rules, this one became vivid to these girls upon its violation.

As part of a school project, the girl had displayed pictures from a vacation at a foreign resort. Her classmates considered that an immature form of “bragging.” They said other kids had gone on even “better trips” or lived in “amazing houses,” but “knew better” than to post about it.

The same girls identified another peer as “too sexual,” a judgment that some of their parents even encouraged. A few of the girls said that their moms did not want them to hang out with her because she “acts too sexy.” One of the girls expressed this very sentiment in a group text that included the peer in question, causing hurt feelings and conflicts.

 

Donald Trump, the First President of Our Post-Literate Age

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But all this focus on fake Facebook news obscures a much bigger story about the way social media — the endless public opining and sharing of information — is reshaping politics. Even if you’ve never given much thought to its meaning, you’ve probably heard someone say “the medium is the message,” the famous dictum of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.

But what does that mean, and what does it mean specifically for the 2016 election? A possible answer can be found in the work of Walter J. Ong, a Jesuit priest and a former student of McLuhan’s at St. Louis University. In his most famous work, “Orality and Literacy,” Ong examined how the invention of reading and writing fundamentally changed human consciousness. He argued that the written word wasn’t just an extension of the spoken word, but something that opened up new ways of thinking — something that created a whole new world.

The easiest way to grasp the difference between the written world and the oral world is that in the latter, there’s no way to look up anything. Before the invention of writing, knowledge existed in the present tense between two or more people; when information was forgotten, it disappeared forever. That state of affairs created a special need for ideas that were easily memorized and repeatable (so, in a way, they could go viral). The immediacy of the oral world did not favor complicated, abstract ideas that need to be thought through. Instead, it elevated individuals who passed along memorable stories, wisdom and good news.

And here we begin to see how the age of social media resembles the pre-literate, oral world. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other platforms are fostering an emerging linguistic economy that places a high premium on ideas that are pithy, clear, memorable and repeatable (that is to say, viral). Complicated, nuanced thoughts that require context don’t play very well on most social platforms, but a resonant hashtag can have extraordinary influence. Evan Spiegel, the chief executive officer of Snap Inc., grasped the new oral dynamics of social media when he told the Wall Street Journal: “People wonder why their daughter is taking 10,000 photos a day. What they don’t realize is that she isn’t preserving images. She’s talking.”

How Instagram Opened a Ruthless New Chapter in the Teen Photo Wars

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Rob: Okay, so we’re about a month in. Have you found anyone seriously using Instagram Stories? Has anyone switched from using Snapchat Stories to Instagram Stories? You are my informant for this.

Rob’s [Teenage] Brother: I don’t really feel like anyone uses their Instagram story—people use it, but not as much as they use their Snapchat story. With Snapchat Stories, they have the expectation that their friends will see it, but with Instagram, you can’t really trust that it’s just your friends who will be seeing it.

Rob: So how often do you check people’s Snapchat Stories?

Rob’s Brother: Twice a day. But I don’t usually go to the stories section—when I open Snapchat, I don’t check stories every time.

Rob: Can you give me an example of what an average Snapchat use is? You open the app, and what happens?

Rob’s Brother: I think the generic Snapchat exchange is an exchange of selfies to keep a streak going. I find that Snapchat conversations involving pictures don’t really involve actually a … conversation. It’s just, like, exchanging pictures.

Instagram Stories: who cares about your commute or cleansing routine?

instagram stories

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I don’t hate Instagram Stories, but Instagram Stories hates me.

I also don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such brilliant friends in life, but, equally, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve their banal videos of facial cleansing routines or them making a peace sign on a busy road as a lorry roars by or a macro shot of a bug they found in the bathroom.

This is what I’ve had to witness since Instagram introduced its clone of Snapchat’s Stories – a section that lets users posts pictures and videos that are only available for 24 hours.