Why study Snapchat

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illustration by Apple

Right now I’m in the thick of finishing up the first draft of my thesis, a deep dive into the culture of Snapchat.

If I’m being honest, 40 pages into this I sometimes question if it’s worth all this time and effort. I conducted a series of focus groups followed by hours and hours of diving into research literature about Computer-Mediated Communication (aka CMC) and all sorts of communication theories.

But isn’t this just an app for silly selfies? Is it worth serious academic research?

Then I flash back to 10 years ago, when I first started my career working with social media. Back then many considered Facebook and Twitter a flash in the pan, a fad that would soon go the way of Friendster or MySpace. I remember feeling that it could be a struggle to be taken seriously, while I saw firsthand the power of global digital connection and instantaneous interpersonal communication.

Today, social media is definitely here to stay. Now you have congress hauling Mark Zuckerberg in front of panels as a testament to Facebook’s power, reach and influence, for better or worse.

As I see that, this is what I think: Maybe you should have started taking this seriously 10 or 15 years ago.

That’s why I think it’s important to understand Snapchat and emerging digital media now. If 180 million people use something, it’s worth serious time, research and inquiry to make sense of it all. Especially if it seems alien or weird to you — that’s all the more reason to try to understand why it might be important to others.

Recently in the app store there was a Snapchat explainer for parents. “Confused by Snapchat? We can help,” it promised. (Thanks for the tip, Sean Berthold.)

This made me think of this quote from my focus group: “My parents would see me doing it and be like, ‘What are you doing?’ And I was like, ‘It’s a new thing.’ And they were like, ‘I don’t get it; I’ll just avoid you.’” I think we can do better than that.

The app store article covered the basics for parents, such as answering the question, What is a streak? “To teens, streaks matter — and breaking one can be a social calamity,” the article stated.

This made me think I’m on the right track! I’m currently doing a research study on Snapchat streaks and its impact on relationships.

You can help! I need Snapchat users who have streaks to take a short ~5-minute survey. If you have streaks or know someone who does, you can take the survey or spread the word with this link.

Thank you!

PS You can also add me on Snapchat here. If you want to learn more, you can start a streak with me.

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