Why doesn't everyone understand Snapchat? | Michigan Radio
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Why doesn't everyone understand Snapchat?

Mar 25, 2015

Senior technology writer for Slate, Will Oremus, has a hard time “getting” Snapchat. He says the app makes him feel old, and recently wrote an article about his struggle.

Oremus is 32 years old.

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Credit Overdrive Interactive

Snapchat is one of the fastest-growing social apps in the world. So this raises the question: Are newer apps trying to keep older users out of the loop?

Kimberly Springer, Michigan Radio’s social media producer, doesn’t think so.

“I think they probably want as big of an audience as they can get,” she said.

What, then, is keeping older users from understanding these up-and-coming apps? Springer cites the generational gap as one of the issues.

“I think the difference between the generations might be that we come to these different technologies with previous technological experience,” she said.

Younger people and their apps, she said, are more “visually oriented” than older people and their older forms of communication technologies.

“So these leaner apps that are popular  –  like Snapchat, Vine  –  they are dedicated to messaging and also to images,” she said. “And that’s very different from our idea that we’re going to use these apps to communicate, say through email or longer messages.”

Users communicate through Snapchat by way of fleeting images and videos. Once viewed by the receiving person, the image or video disappears.

“It’s ephemeral," Springer said. "I mean I think maybe some of our warnings to the next generation about privacy and things lasting on the Internet might have gotten through a bit with these application designers."

Another new application on the rise is called YouNow. According to Springer, the interface consists simply of a video camera that’s “turned on, on you all the time.”

“'We’re all a brand now,’ I think is the saying, and so with that branding might come a different sort of expectation about privacy, which I think is a worrying generational difference, because we seem to have forgotten about things like freedom and liberty in lieu of talking about privacy and just accepting that some of that is gone,” she said.

As these new apps illustrate, technology is continuously changing and the next generation always brings a new twist. That’s “just how technology works,” Springer said.

She cited hundreds of social media channels currently in existence, many of which will disappear before next year.

“I think it’s good to know what the different things are, but I don’t think we necessarily have to know how to use them, because they’re also quite fleeting,” Springer said.

 – Lindsey Scullen, Michigan Radio Newsroom