Snapchat - Demystifying the ghost on your phone

Less than a year ago, Snapchat, the mobile app your younger sister is sending photos and videos to her friends with, was about to sink back into the mist of oblivion where it came from, back in 2011 (shoutout to Dubsmash, yo, yikyak and the like).

However, something has happened since then. The user count is surging, more and more celebrities use it and even already established companies are dying to advertise on it. Since 2014, about 700 million snaps are sent over the app every single day.

Yet, no one really knows what it is for.

Every user can decide for themselves how to use it, what kind of content to share and how to interact with their contacts on the app. Really, I am not surprised that one of the first hits when googling ‘snapchat’ is an article titled “What’s the point of Snapchat and how does it work?”.

What is remarkable about Snapchat, is that teens use it more than Facebook, you get trophies, and emojis next to your name, you can check out collected snaps from networks and events, there are location based filters and, most importantly, it really does not matter how ugly the selfie is you’re sending to your roommate at 8am (unless they’re mean and collecting leverage).

Of course, Maastricht is not devoid of student with Snapchat fame. Fortunately, I talked to a few of them for you.

Alejandra (alepaola - 24,923)

So, the first question is, how long have you had Snapchat?
I got Snapchat when I was in High School and I think I was either 16 or 17. So, I’ve had it for 3-4 years.
Damn... Okay, okay, how would you explain the app to your grandma?
Okay, I’d tell her that it’s kind of a social media platform, but instead of being able to post permanent pictures or written stories you post photos that are kind of a snapshot of your moment. They last just for a couple of seconds.
Nice, because the concept of it is so strange, I remember when someone was like oh Aliya get Snapchat, I was like, what, what does that mean and they were like, yeah you take a picture and it disappears, I was like whaaatt…but now, obviously…
Yeah, this is just like for all people who want to send naked images.
So, tell me a little bit about what you use it for, mainly.
To be honest, I mainly use it nowadays to either send messages to just my really close friends - I send you a lot of random stuff - or I use it a lot to post on my story. So, at the end of the day I can look back and see what I’ve done. I do that a lot when I go to the gym or I’ve made a meal that’s really nice or if my cat is doing something stupid, then I post in on my story and then later at night I can go and see what I’ve done.
That’s a nice way of putting it like you’re going to document your own way, but not in a way that is really annoying to other people, like on Facebook or something like oh today I did this…
Also for me it’s like, if you don’t want to see what’s going on in my life you don’t have to click on my story.
Exactly, so it’s kind of like sneaky people who don’t want to know, but at the same time then click, like why are you clicking?
Yeah, if you’re clicking, why are you complaining?

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Claudia (vodkaisahobby - 8,641)

I would like to start by asking you what your Snapchat name and count is.
Well, my Snapchat name is vodkaisahobby, which I chose thinking I was being extremely funny in first year of uni, so it’s been a while. Now, I kind of regret it. My count is 8,641. I’m not the most active but I still use Snapchat quite a lot.
How long have you had Snapchat?
I guess three years now? Oh wow, that’s a long time.
How would you explain Snapchat to someone who has no idea what it is?
Well, you have this app where you can take pictures of yourself or anything else and you can share them with a group of people that you follow, that are your friends and follow you. The thing about this picture is that if you add it to your story then it lasts a day, so that’s the longest you can see a picture on Snapchat. It’s, also, just a maximum of 10 seconds. So, it’s really quick and funny.
What do you use it for, mainly? How do you interact with people on the platform?
I usually just send funny pictures back and forth with friends, like I’m bored in class or I’m doing something funny and I send a Snapchat to a friend and they reply. Or, when I was on my semester abroad I used it to let my friends know what I was up to, so like a daily update. Or like I’m eating this nice thing or look at this pretty picture of the sky today in Helsinki, something like that.
Do you add these to your story?
Yeah, that’s a bit of an overview of my day. It’s a thing that I do now. Sometimes, there’s series that I made of like, me at the bus stop in Helsinki for four month or me being depressed at Maastricht University.
What do you find most surprising about the platform? What do you get most excited about?
These days it’s the new filters - the ones that you can apply to your face. They’re the biggest source of procrastination I’ve ever found, like I could literally just spend an hour taking stupid pictures of me looking like the dog. The ones that change the shape of your face are so funny. So you just end up easily amused when you want to procrastinate.

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Nadine (nadine_elroubi - 21,675)

What do you use Snapchat for, mainly?
Usually, what I snapchat is either my friends or myself. The pictures are usually of funny things and my everyday life. I have a lot of friends abroad and I don’t keep in touch with them via Whatsapp or anything, so it’s a way to communicate with them what’s going on in my life without having to sit down and have a conversation. Also, it’s a platform for me to express myself? Sometimes I post music that I’m listening to or an image that I like or something that I’m reading, to show people ‘this is what I’m into, this is what I’m doing’. For me, it’s like a visual form of communication. It’s like Twitter – it’s like the visual Twitter!
That’s cool! You also manage the Breaking Maas account, how do you use Snapchat differently for Breaking Maas than for your personal use?
Well, the bad thing is, I haven’t been as active on the Breaking Maas account as I should be. That’s mostly because it’s more of a general platform. I don’t post anything too often because I find a lot of cool things that I’d like to post, like people in UCM going about their day or just stuff, that I would post every single second on my personal account but I’m too embarrassed to because people would get fucking annoyed at me. Usually, it’s more general stuff that’s happening in Maastricht [on the Breaking Maas account], stuff that’s going on, what people are doing – but because I’m not out as often as I should be, I don’t get to cover a lot. But if I could, that’s what I would be doing.
What do you find most fascinating about Snapchat?
How easy and accessible it is! It’s so quick! You literally just snap a picture or video and you add it to your story or you send it to someone and there you go – part of your day, part of the moment you found special is immediately shared with someone else. The way it’s different from Instagram or Facebook, is the way you’re sharing something. On either platform, people are scrolling through and they see your picture or they just don’t see it. You never know if they acknowledged it. Snapchat is a way of getting things you care about out there and really sending it to a person. Yet, without it being too personal. If I snap a selfie or my friend doing something and I send it to my friend or put it on my story, I can see who’s seen it, I can know for sure who acknowledges my life and who cares…
… also who screenshotted it!
Exactly! And maybe they don’t necessarily care but, for me, it’s like, if you want to really express something about your day or share a moment that is special, you know for a fact that other people will share it with you!
Is there anything else that you want to share with people about Snapchat?
I just think it’s cool the way it is revolutionizing a) storytelling, b) the way we share news. For example, I don’t know if you follow Kylie Jenner, but her snapchats are pretty funny in the sense that she introduced the idea of a short film or TV series on Snapchat, which I thought was really cool. Obviously, on Snapchat you have the different magazines and news platforms using the platform as a way to share news. They put information from their magazines on Snapchat in a more compressed form, so people can just swipe through it or click through it and see what’s going on. It’s just a much more accessible way of sharing news that way!

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Sophie (sophievanwersch - 34,462)

How long have you had Snapchat for?
I got Snapchat after I graduated from High school, 2013. A couple of years then?
What do you use the app for mainly?
It’s a way for me to keep in contact with people and also, I like posting really random things that I’m doing with my life. It’s kind of like a representation of what you do, but in the weirdest way.
So, how do you interact with people on Snapchat?
You send them something that you’re doing, something you’re thinking about, people or music. You send little videos of things that you’re doing in your day.
What do you find most fascinating about it?
The way you can interact with people actually? It’s a very personal interaction with other people because you really are seeing what people are doing in the moment. You can see not only your regular friends but also you can see celebrities. I’m not gonna lie, I follow a couple of celebrities, such as DJ Khalid.
Who doesn’t though?
Yeah, his life is very entertaining when he gets lost on jet skis, so… I enjoy this.
Is there anything else you want to share about Snapchat?
You should follow me on sophievanwersch…
other person in vicinity: I have Snapchat again! But I only use it to send ugly pictures…
See, I feel like most people do. The one thing I don’t do for Snapchat is, I don’t take selfies on there in terms of trying to look good. I use Snapchat more in a fun and creative way; I take selfies and draw on them and make myself look like I’m in a different place. For example, I have a picture of myself as Harry Potter and also as an astronaut, which I drew myself.
Does the time limit impact your use of Snapchat in a way?
Yeah! If it’s a really ugly picture I make the number really, really small so people only see it for a moment and can’t screenshot it. Sometimes it gets frustrating, because you want to video a little bit longer or you want to write a longer message, but it’s just not possible because of the time constraint. Such a struggle! But usually I don’t have a problem with it because I don’t post a whole entire minute of something in my day, it’s really just a small moment of what I’m doing.

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If you have anything to say - or simply want to brag about your Snapchat count and trophy case, leave a comment below!

Written by Isabel Schmuck