What Snapchat is and How to Start Snapping Today

Last updated: April 20, 2017 - 7:00pm EDT

One of the risks of using social media is that someone connected to you ends up seeing something that they weren't meant to see. Usually, this happens when they become friends with you on a social network, and out of curiosity end up looking through your content history, and finding something that they feel is unbecoming of you. This has been a particularly prevalent problem among younger people. 

You may have heard some of the horror stories of teens and young adults adding their boss, teacher, or prospective employer as a friend on social media. Then, they got fired, disciplined, or turned down from a job because they had posted something like an angry, offensive rant, or photos of themselves getting drunk or doing other inappropriate things at a party. It didn't matter that those things were likely only meant for their friends in the spur of the moment; the paper trail on their social media account came back to haunt them.safe

This mattered to the Stanford University students who made Snapchat, though. They were tired of seeing people stressing out over trying to craft the perfect image of themselves on social media, and getting burned for sharing potentially unflattering content in the heat of the moment. They wanted to create a social media environment where information wasn't permanent, and where people had the freedom to be a little crazy, spontaneous, imperfect, and above all... honest. That's where they came up with the idea for Snapchat.

So, what exactly is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a social messaging app for mobile devices that allows the exchange of photos or videos ("snaps"), as well as text messages ("chats"). Snapchat's defining feature is that the majority of its content deletes itself after being viewed, and/or after a relatively short amount of time. It is mostly used by younger people, such as high school students or college/university students.  However, it is becoming popular among older adults as well, as a way to more privately share messages and pictures with their loved ones.

How Does Snapchat Work?

Snapchat works in a way that allows users to communicate with one another in a private and discreet way. Anything that is shared through Snapchat will automatically disappear, so users don’t have to worry about a “paper trail” of their actions on the Snapchat app like they might with other social media platforms.

When you send a picture or video, whoever you send it to can open it and view it for up to 10 seconds before the message disappears. If you choose to share a picture or video on your “story,” your friends will have the chance to view it for 24 hours before it disappears.

5 Ways to Use Snapchat

1. Find friends to communicate with through Snapchat.

There are plenty of different ways to add contacts to share with.  You can search for people by their user name, have Snapchat look through your device's address book, scan someone's Snapchat identity code, or even add someone who's looking friends nearby!

Search for friends on Snapchat

2. Send a quick photo or video that deletes itself after it’s been opened.

Take a picture or record a video, and then send your "snap" to your friends!  You can choose how long that you want others to be able to see it, and when that time is up... poof!  No trace of your content!

Send photo or video on Snapchat

3. Dress up your picture or video "snaps" with special effects.

Express yourself through your snaps!  Decide whether or not they'll have audio, add a caption or emoji, draw on them, or apply an artistic filter.  Do whatever you think will help get the point of your message home, because your recipient can only see it once!

Add special effects to snaps

4. Send text messages that also self-destruct after being opened.

Think that words are enough to get your meaning across? Pick a friend to send a message to, type in what you want to say, and then send away! When they receive the message, it will be gone as soon as they close the chat window.

Learn how to do all of the functions mentioned in ways 2-4 with our how to use Snapchat tutorial here.

Send text chats on Snapchat

5. Share what a day in your life is like with "stories."

You can also add your "snaps" to your "story" to show people what you do throughout the course of a 24-hour period. Unlike regular "snaps", ones added to your "story" stay there for at least 24 hours, and your friends can view them as many times as they want! You can also check out stories from other famous companies and organizations!

Snapchat Stories menu

Is Snapchat Safe to Use?

Snapchat is safer to use than other social media platforms, since anything shared on the app automatically disappears after a certain period of time. Although your picture, video, and text snaps can only be viewed for up to 10 seconds, keep in mind that people could potentially screenshot anything you send them on Snapchat.

To increase your safety on Snapchat, make sure your privacy settings align with your own comfort level. To learn more about how to stay safe while using the app, have a look at our Snapchat safety article.

Does Snapchat cost anything?

Snapchat is free to download and use. You can sign up for an account and use all the features of the app, 100% free! At one time, Snapchat used to charge users to access additional filters, but they have since made these features free by increasing the number of ads and sponsored content shown within the app.

History of Snapchat

Snapchat was created by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown. In spring 2011, Spiegel presented the idea for a selfie app that would let users send images that would disappear after being opened. Spiegel et al first launched the app with the name “Picaboo” in July 2011, and relaunched it 2 months later with the name Snapchat.

Since then, Snapchat has skyrocketed in popularity. More features have been added, including the ability to post “stories,” and the ability to add filters and stickers to your photo and video messages. In 2014, the ability to make voice and video calls was introduced. It is now one of the most popular messaging apps available.

Snapchat Pros and Cons

There are some good and some bad things about Snapchat. Let’s go over some of them now to give you an idea of whether it's right for you.

Some pros of Snapchat are that it lets users interact privately, which is appealing to those who are concerned about their image on social media. Since everything shared the app automatically disappears after a certain amount of time, you don’t have to worry about anyone snooping on your interactions.

There are some not-so-great thing about Snapchat as well. One of them is that the app is made for mobile devices, so you can’t use it on your desktop or laptop computer. Some people also may not enjoy the fact that messages disappear so quickly – if you’re not ready, a snap could disappear before you’ve had the chance to take it all in.

Snapchat Competitors

Maybe Snapchat doesn’t sound right for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry – we can suggest some other apps like Snapchat that work for you! If security and privacy are most important to you, Wickr or Dust might be good choices. If you want something like Snapchat that you can use on your desktop computer, try out Telegram. Other great alternatives include WeChat and Clipchat. You can learn more about all of these websites and apps in our apps like Snapchat article here.

 

Well, that's a short introduction to what Snapchat is about, and what it can do! Be sure to check out the rest of our Snapchat course, which provide tips on how to protect your privacy, explain how to use the mobile app, and much more! Happy snapping!

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