Snapchat is a photo sharing app with a difference: images self-destruct just seconds after viewing. The whole point is to safeguard privacy. Images are not saved in the cloud where they can come back to haunt the user when s/he least expects it.
Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase
The user interface is simple. You snap a photo, choose how long you would like it to last (3-10 seconds), select a recipient and tap the send button. When you receive a message, you simply press down on the notification line. You then have a very limited time in order to view the photo. I found it annoying that you have to press and hold, which means that you can’t view the whole photo because your finger is in the way.
Once the time is up, neither the sender nor the receiver can see the photo again. As Snapchat reminds users, however, the app cannot prevent recipients from taking a screen capture of the image that you send them. Thus, even though images are not stored anywhere on your phone or in the cloud, Snapchat is not a completely safe technology to use for sharing photos privately.
I first read about Snapchat a few months ago in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article draws particular attention to the issue of privacy in the digital age. One of the books it references is called Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. I immediately ordered it from my local library and read it with great interest. If you are at all interested in technology and privacy questions, I highly recommend it.
Snapchat’s effort in attempting to address the issue of Internet privacy is to be commended. While it might not have any direct application in libraries, I believe it does have indirect application in spurring us to think more deeply about reader privacy.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with the photo-sharing platform Instagram. Instagram exploits the fact that us humans are highly visual creatures and created a social network solely dedicated to sharing snapshots of users’ lives. The creators of this app were very intent on making sure it only be used to snap on-the-go photos by restricting uploads to those from smart phones. This ensured that users wouldn’t use the app merely as a photo aggregator where batch photos could be uploaded from their laptop just as they can with Facebook or other social networks. It wasn’t until recently that users’ profiles were even viewable online without a mobile device. Even so, capabilities on the non-mobile version are extremely limited. This, to me, is what sets this platform apart from other photo-sharing networks.
Another appealing aspect is their photo filters. This allows each user to edit their photos by choosing one of the several predetermined filters until it appears to their liking. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling a little bit more like a professional photographer? This ensures the most aesthetically pleasing photo for the user editing it and for users consuming it. Instagram has been my go-to app to view pretty things (photography, blogger outfits and collages).
I can see libraries using Instagram just like any other user does: to share snippets of its daily happenings. When I worked as a social media assistant in a digital agency, I learned that users want to see humanizing posts, not merely adds or calls to action. Seeing what goes on behinds the scenes at the library, during lesser-known programs or showing some personality from staff can really go a long way to make an information institution more appealing. It also has the potential to elucidate the fact that libraries are not just books anymore by providing visual evidence to the contrary.