When it comes to the way people communicate in the digital age, the relationship between what’s put out into the world and how people receive it has changed. From seemingly medieval face-to-face interactions to traditional social media posts and their subsequent comments, the gap between expression and reaction has widened significantly, drawing a significant amount of criticism.
“When people aren’t using face-to-face contact for personal issues, it doesn’t fill the intimacy need,” school psychologist Dr. Kate Roberts told Deseret News National. “For all the strong reaction out there about Twitter and Facebook allowing emotional expression, it’s not necessarily effective. You’re not necessarily getting to a resolution…”
However, the latest talking point in social media trends is temporary social media, which may uproot many preconceived notions about the divide between social media and authentic, human communication.
The most common example of temporary social media is Snapchat, which has 100 million active users daily, according to VentureBeat. Snapchat’s concept is simple: Post a photo or video, add a funny caption or even an emoji or two, send it off to some select friends, or post it on your Story for all your friends to see. The catch? It disappears within a few seconds.
Snapchat has also introduced features to boost users’ ability to react to what’s shared with them—one simple swipe and you can respond with a chat, a normal picture or video, an emoji, a live video, or any kind of funky modification such as geofilters and lenses.
This changes everything. Though the tool may seem simple, it has had a drastic impact on how we communicate through social media. Rather than waiting to accumulate Likes or retweets, Snapchat fosters an environment that encourages instant and much more personal engagement. Its temporary nature makes it a great way to casually leave stories out there and see who engages with them because it’s much easier to reach out—there’s less at stake.
For instance, take into account a Snap-conversation I had with my friend just this weekend:
Him: *sends picture of his dog in a birthday hat*
Him: DOG BIRTHDAY PARTY!
Me: OMG I’M DYING!!!!
Hey, I never said you had to necessarily be poetic on Snapchat.
Nonetheless, this conversation would likely not be held over text, nor would I have left such a candid, out-of-my-mind-about-dogs comment in a Facebook post for everyone to see. It’s a win-win: Getting those in-the-moment photos or videos makes the person receiving them feel as if they’re part of the moment, and makes the one sharing them feel like they have something worth sharing.
This type of “low-stakes sharing” lends itself to people sharing more personal stories. While it’s nice to have years-long records of posts on Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat makes users feel comfortable uploading day-to-day personal discoveries that may not garner a ton of thumbs-up or favorites but will lead to a more personal connection.
For instance, I’d drive people absolutely nuts if I posted on Facebook every time I was bored and tried to face-swap with my roommates’ cats or used a Snapchat filter to give myself a rainbow tongue. While I want to share funny (and often self-deprecating) things with my friends, I’m not exactly about to post them up for all my high school acquaintances to see.
According to Technology Review, “Many users turn to these applications for the candid, human experience they offer. The fleeting nature of the content is much closer to an in-person conversation, and the self-destruct feature drops inhibitions and creates a feeling of urgency that demands attention, but also elicits less consideration of impact and fear of consequences.”
This lack of a fear of consequences is key. Like most brands following the latest social media trends, I am very careful about what I share on Facebook—one mishap and that post isn’t going away anytime soon. However, the fleeting stories found in temporary social media appear to be telling a more cohesive and real story. People gravitate toward this impermanence because it leads to authenticity, and with the communication features in place to reward that authenticity, it’s the perfect recipe to go beyond the confines of carefully curated, permanent content.
Many brands may be wondering whether or not Snapchat is just one of the latest social media trends that is bound to pass with time and isn’t worth investing in. However, innovative brands can take advantage of temporary social media by using it to experiment. Technology Review claims a few brands have already started offering disappearing coupons and secret announcements on the app, but there are many opportunities for personal, one-on-one connections with fans.
For instance, spamming a Facebook page with live updates from a conference networking party rife with cocktails, words of advice, and perhaps a bit of dancing might lead the average consumer to tire easily. But, when they can easily scroll through and react to 10-second clips they’ve opted into watching, their reactions will be more positive. Similarly, temporary social media leads to an increased sense of urgency—if you don’t click it now, you may never get the chance to—which makes potential customers more likely to check out what a brand is posting. Temporary social media gives off that “in-the-moment” feeling, and no one wants to feel as if they’re missing out.
According to Technology Review, this will “require a delicate balance to ensure that the initiatives tie back to business goals, while maintaining an authentic vibe.” But, with the low stakes of uploading a short, disappearing clip to social media that can be reacted to and engaged with nearly immediately, brands should have an easier time maintaining a credible yet authentic standing among their audiences.
Temporary social media is changing the way we communicate by shortening the time it takes to react to something and giving positive reinforcement to the person who put it out there. While many people think social media is making users too removed from the people and brands they communicate with, apps such as Snapchat are working to fill in that distance with good stories and authentic moments.