Vanishing into cyberspace

Seniors Marguerite Sommer and Taylor Ryan make silly faces for a Snapchat photo, as many teenagers today do.
Allie Kenny '13

Seniors Marguerite Sommer and Taylor Ryan make silly faces for a Snapchat photo, as many teenagers today do. Allie Kenny '13

Seniors Marguerite Sommer and Taylor Ryan make silly faces for a Snapchat photo, as many teenagers today do.
Allie Kenny ’13

10 seconds and it’s gone. Photos vanish into the depths of cyberspace, never to be seen or saved again. This is the one-way track of information on Snapchat, an application that is just over a year old, but growing exponentially in popularity each day.
“I always get caught sending funny selfies to my friends,” Convent of the Sacred Heart senior Meggie Purcell said.“It does not matter what I look like because the photo can’t be saved. It can still make someone smile.”
The Snapchat team composed of four friends released their unique application on September 26, 2011. Snapchat is an application through which people can send photos to their friends and choose how long the receiver can view the photo. After a maximum of 10 seconds, the photo disappears and cannot be retrieved. If a screenshot is taken of a particular photo, the sender is notified.
“Snapchat is changing privacy norms in a crazy way,”  junior Jacqueline Thomas said.  “We have long been warned by adults that everything on the web stays forever, but not Snapchat.”
The creation of an application with expiring data quickly raised questions about the motive behind it. Co-founder and Stanford graduate, Evan Spiegel, responded to the media buzz in an interview on techcrunch.com.
“It seems odd that at the beginning of the Internet everyone decided everything should stick around forever,” Spiegel said. “I think our application makes communication a lot more human and natural.”
Spiegel said users contend that the app is used to send funny faces and messages, not promiscuous or inappropriate images. He did add, though, that the app was partially inspired by the Anthony Weiner scandal. Despite some suspected downsides to this new form of privacy, Spiegel and his team were instead motivated by positive values.
“We believe in sharing authentic moments with friends,” the Snapchat team said on snapchat.com. “It’s not all about fancy vacations, sushi dinners, or beautiful sunsets. Sometimes it’s an inside joke, a silly face, or greetings from a pet fish.”
The application reached one billion snaps on October 28, 2012. As of December 2012, Snapchat has made it to the third spot on the iTunes free application list. Teens especially are flocking to this new form of communication. According to J.J. Colao on Forbes.com, the app is used 30 million times a day and will soon obtain $8 million in venture funding.
“Sharing those moments should be fun,” the Snapchat team said. “Communication is more entertaining when it’s with the people who know us best. And we know that no one is better at making us laugh than our friends.

 There is value in the ephemeral. Great conversations are magical.
 That’s because they are shared, enjoyed, but not saved.”
As the funny faces spread, so too does the idea of a dramatic change in Internet privacy settings.
 
– Allie Kenny, Opinions Editor