You decided to join (or were bullied into joining, by peer pressure or by some dimming glow of youth within you that urged you, in every way that you can, to follow the teens) the photo- and video-sharing phenomenon Snapchat, the app that (sort of) erases your pictures just seconds after they've been viewed. There's a lot that you can do with Snapchat account, and perhaps even more that you definitely should not ever do. Here are the rules!
WHO SHOULD I SNAP?
Your friends. Unless you are some kind of creep or weirdo (and even then this is true, it's just that I know you won't listen) you should restrict your selfies and your scenery/dog/friend snaps to people who, because they know you in some realm outside Snapchat, have to at least pretend to be interested in receiving them. These don't have to be your REAL friends — on the "Degrees of Technology-Based Friendship Scale," with the most intimate forms at the top, Snapchat friendship typically falls below texting and above Twitter, with Gchat just nearby. Does this make any sense? Maybe not. If you have doubts as to whether it's "too soon" to ask someone for his or her Snapchat username, it probably is.
WHEN (IF EVER) IS MASS SNAPPING APPROPRIATE?
…Sometimes. At first you'll probably just send pictures back and forth with a few close friends, but eventually your Snapchat ring is going to expand to include friends of those friends, and among these people there will likely be at least one Mass Snapper, who predominantly sends snaps to his/her entire contact list. (It's not always easy to tell if you're being mass snapped, but again, if you have to wonder, you probably are?) You're going to see Snaps of people you do not know and image themes that are vaguely familiar to you as other people's inside jokes. You will feel unspecial and, though you are in a group, alone. Unfortunately, if you are unhappy on this list, there is nothing really you can do to get off it. (Well, you can block. But you probably cannot block a friend.) Once you're on a friend or pseudo-friend's Snapchat distribution list, you're on it for life or until we are maybe 50.
If you're the person considering a mass snap, ask yourself this: does each potential recipient have at least one frame of reference for understanding this picture or video? They don't have to get EVERYTHING that's going on, but they should understand most of it. An example: everyone understands a cool dog. That is safe. But does everyone on your list know at least one person in this video?
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I SNAP?
In moderation. Most of our activity on social media is going to be more effective when it's somewhat rare — partly because we're less likely to be super annoying, partly because it creates an air of mystery, partly because of that behavioral science experiment where rats responded best to being only intermittently rewarded with treats — so it's best not to drown your friends in boring pictures. That being said! Some people LOVE Snapchat. You have to know your audience, which you do by paying attention to how frequently they respond to your snaps with snaps of their own. Or like, talk to them or something.
HOW QUICKLY SHOULD I OPEN AND RESPOND?
Whenever and whenever. Snapchat is not a form of communication chosen for its efficiency, and is therefore not subject to stringent response time guidelines, however much I wish that it were. Like with everything else, it is nerdy to open a snap right away ("Go outside, loser!" "But YOU just sent this to ME??" "Haha whatever, square."), but it's also the nicest and best. We are all always by our phones and we need to get over that.
As for responding to snaps, the subject matter dictates. Is this a friend asking for outfit or hairstyle approval? It's your job to send back a smiling and supportive (or, I guess, horrified) selfie ASAP. If we're talking about logbook snapping — i.e. pictures of whatever random shit you just walked by — feel free to respond (or not respond) as you see fit. If you're generally in favor of getting this person's snaps, though, you have to give something back once in a while.
Never! Just because you know you CAN do something doesn't mean that you should. The expressed goal of Snapchat is to be able to send each other pictures that self-destruct, so it follows that taking screenshots ruins the whole spirit of the thing. (It's valuable that it's there, though, as a looming threat reminding you not to get too comfortable, I guess, but still! Don't be mean!) If someone takes a screenshot of one of your snaps, you should not send that person snaps any longer, period.
Never EVER. Not ever. (And if you're going to do it I do not want to know about it.)
Senior Editor, Ghost Hunter, Ufologist
Contact Katie Heaney at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.