This Week I Quit Snapchat
This week I quit Snapchat. For some of you, the only surprise will be my having had a Snapchat account in the first place, since there’s a (misguided) perception that Snapchat is only for teenagers. But, quite a few artists and creatives I follow (like Chase Jarvis and Jimmy DiResta) are veery active on Snapchat and for a few weeks over the summer, it was my favourite social media platform.
But, things have changed, so as I look to clean up the things clamouring for my attention it became obvious Snapchat had to go.
How Instagram Stole The Race From Snapchat
Back in June, as my interest was growing in Snapchat, I was starting to wonder if the time had come to leave Instagram. The growing encroachment of ads and changes to how the timeline were some the latest frustrations. But I’ve long had a dislike for Instagram. I find it hard to find interesting accounts to follow and the insane, tits and ass algorithm that drives the “images you might like” tab has been a perpetual source of frustration.
Then Instagram went and added Stories. Clearly a shot aimed in the direction of Snapchat, Stories gave us the chance to do almost everything you could do with Snapchat, but within the Instagram ecosystem.
Stories isn’t as fun as Snapchat, it doesn’t have as many typography options, the cool geo-located stamps (which in Tokyo change for every neighbourhood), or the insane selfie filters. But, it has one decisive advantage for me.
Sure, some high-profile types are active on Snapchat, along with a growing number of media outlets. But, amongst my network of friends, peers, contacts and followers, there are very few on the platform. And, the number isn’t growing.
My first Instagram Story gained more views than anything I’d posted on Snapchat. Views aren’t everything. But, given that all my (tiny number of) followers on Snapchat are also following me on Instagram, Twitter, or both, it’s hard to be motivated to create unique images for the platform.
And make no mistake, you have to offer something unique for each platform. Last week I mentioned the “be on everything” strategy. One of the ideas that went along with that was that we would be able to automate sharing across platforms. So, when you created a blogpost, for example, it would automatically appear on your Twitter stream, Facebook wall, or anywhere else.
Increasingly we’ve grown weary of that approach. Some people really resent it. What’s happening with the latest generation of platforms, like Snapchat and Stories in Instagram is you have to create unique images for users who hang out there.
Another platform, another set of strategic questions about how to use and another opportunity to lose focus making the cognitive switch from one app to another. I don’t want to live my life trying to decide which social platform is best suited to sharing the cool real world experience I’m having.
A few weeks back I sent out a series of images on Snapchat, advising people that I was using Instagram Stories from now on. Deleting my Snapchat account wasn’t straightforward. There was more than just the usual fear-based psychology to contend with. You have to log into Snapchat via your browser, not the app, and find the right page in the support section. But, because of Snapchat’s language localisation, I was looking at pages in Japanese and quickly getting frustrated.
Given the inconvenience, it’s tempting to just stop using Snapchat, delete the app and forget about it. However, doing this is a potential security risk if Snapchat ever gets hacked and leaves me open to future spam emails from them (especially if their change their approach to notifications in the way other platforms, like Twitter, are prone to do). Also, I might be doing my friends and followers a disservice by leaving an account there for them to waste time finding and following.
Then I was met with the ubiquitous “are you sure” prompt, designed to make you question your decision. Perhaps it’s a good question if one were hovering over the delete button in a fit of rage or frustration. But, when looked at in the cold light of a clearheaded decision the language app makers use for this step just feels childish. Yes, I’m sure.
Looking Beyond Snapchat
In the short term, I will miss the tone of Snapchat. It felt new, anarchic and free, at least compared to the curated, admire my lifestyle flavour of Instagram. But, that was never going to last and it was already clear that a formula, set of rules and consistent style was creeping into the way people shared on Snapchat.
I’m glad to have played with Snapchat though. You can’t judge a social media platform from the outside. The future is clearly going to have Snapchat-like features to it, especially the mix of photos, video and augmented reality elements.
The question is how long we will continue to enjoy looking at the world around us and asking “how do I make this cool on a smartphone screen?”
This Week I Quit is a (mostly) weekly series where I try, in a personal way, to address the habit of overcommitment. Each week I quit something, it could be an app, a habit, a possession, a word, anything that had a hold on my attention. I explain why I made the choice to quit and what it was like. Last time I Quit Tumblr (and a Bad Social Media Strategy, and you can read all the posts in this series here.