I don't understand Snapchat and it scares me. I understand what it is. Basically you can send snapshots to your friends who can only see them for a few seconds and then they are gone forever. (Although I'm not entirely convinced anything is “gone forever" on the internet. It's certainly not gone forever if it was intercepted by the NSA, randomly or otherwise.) I know what it is and I can see it as a curiosity but it seems kids are using this as a communication tool. That's what I don't get: How are they communicating anything meaningful?
It's a common view to pass it off as some sort of gimmicky kid thing. But I'm not so sure. We already know that the written word, the single most influential force in my life, is up for some serious degradation in the coming years. Most young folks cannot be bothered to even use basic punctuation, such as end a sentence with a period. Read any text, or facebook comment, or forum post from someone under 25 and it looks like diarrhea of the keyboard. Basic stuff -- capital letters, commas, spelling, simple grammar -- is deemed completely superfluous.
Snapchat may be the next step beyond this. Maybe it's too much effort to punch the keys to say “hi hangin w zack + madison @pool hahaha whatevs" so you just snap a pic and send. But even that can only have limited value if it just exists for a few seconds.
My real fear is that there is some sort of meaning is all this ephemeral tripe they send back and forth. That they are finding a way to maintain and develop human relationships and substantive interaction that I cannot fathom. I am 53 years old and up until now I have grasped every technological change I've encountered. I haven't adopted or mastered them all, certainly, but I've understood them. I even understand the degradation of writing. I don't like it, but the world does not exist for my pleasure.
But this Snapchat thing -- if there are meaningful connections being made in this manner and they become a societal norm in the coming years, I may be toast. I may be the guy looking for an ashtray or trying to send a fax. Because I just don't get it. Damn kids.
On the other hand, if it's just a mechanism for sending stupid and or lurid photos to your friends that your parents can't see, that's cool. Have fun.