You probably think this story’s about you. In an age of individualistic technology, here’s why we’re so obsessed with Snapchat and Instagram.
Smartphones give users the ability to capture a moment anywhere and at anytime. Whether capturing a puppy or one of your best friend’s recent bar-crawl adventures, which then ends up on BSUMakeouts’ Twitter feed, apps like Instagram let users share their photos instantly with anyone via social media. And if the moment is a little too risqué to be included in the social stratosphere, Snapchat allows users to share photos only for a few seconds before they disappear.
But what makes narcissistic apps like Instagram and Snapchat so popular? Or in Snapchat’s case, what is it about a photo that goes away after a few seconds that makes us willing to take embarrassing photos of ourselves?
American culture is highly individualistic. According to Dr. Melinda Jo Messineo, chairperson of the Department of Sociology and associate professor of sociology, social media helps us tap into that individualism by giving us the opportunity to present the best version of ourselves to others. Along with the want to present this best-self image, the United States puts a lot of emphasis on a Hollywood lifestyle.
“…You have this drive for individualism and this very strong celebrity culture and now you have a technology that makes it possible for individuals to be mini-celebrities,” Messineo says.
Because Instagram users can follow your photos, like them and leave a comment, it can elevate your social status.
Instagram also fulfills some of our basic human needs. Through users commenting and liking photos, the need humans have to belong is fulfilled.
“We are always seeking points of comparison,” says David Austin Chapman, assistant professor of the Department of Counseling Psychology and Guidance Services and interim director of the M.A. Social Psychology Program.
What Chapman means by this is that we constantly compare ourselves to those around us. It’s in our nature to see how we are doing compared to the rest of society. Through Instagram, we get photographic evidence of how we match up to the world around us.
Fun fact: the creator of Snapchat originally had every photo ever snapped sent to his phone so he could personally view them. Don’t worry; he can’t do that anymore. However, photos are still kept on Snapchat’s server, so technically they never fully disappear. With Snapchat, they only stay on your phone’s screen long enough for your friends to have a good laugh.
Snapchat is also popular because it doesn’t leave a viewable digital footprint, which Messineo says people are starting to become more sensitive to.
Through Snapchat, we can take photos of our weird and crazy ways and only let the people we choose see them for a few seconds before it disappears. In other words, college students can send drunken photos without worrying about them being recovered — unless, of course, the receiver takes a screenshot. This comes as a relief for those who want to preserve their online reputation and avoid damaging repercussions.
Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are popular because they tug at the strings of our sociological and psychological being. They also make us feel important or like we belong. However, even though they meet our fundamental human needs, we still might want to be mindful of what we broadcast to the world.
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