If you’re friends with me on Facebook you may have noticed I’ve been a little quiet lately. It’s not because I’ve given up my iPhone addiction (lol – no) … it’s because I’m spending more and more time on Snapchat.
Six months ago if you told me I was going to become a Snapchat addict, I would have laughed. I tried Snapchat about a year ago and did not like it AT ALL. The interface was super confusing and there were too many options. Do I take a photo? Video? Draw? Write? Add overlays (which I know now are called “filters”)? And in order to watch other people’s content (snaps), you had to choose their name from a list and hold down on the screen. And with no public commenting system, how was I supposed to have a conversation with my followers? Ugh. Everything just took too much effort and I didn’t care. I resigned myself to being too old. Too old to learn something new. Snapchat was for the kids, I thought.
Well, much to the kids’ annoyance (I’m sure), Snapchat has been evolving over the past year. And so have I. A few months ago I read article after article about how Snapchat is growing rapidly among the adult demographic. I started getting tired of some of my business friends saying “Did you see my snaps about it?” And then some of my blogger friends started sharing they were partnering with brands for paid campaigns on Snapchat. Ummmmm okay, I get it, Universe. So I gave Snapchat another chance. I let one of my friends give me a tutorial on how it works … which should be APPLAUDED because I hate to admit when I need help. And I followed a lot of my friends as well as a couple celebrities and brands so I could see how people were using it.
It didn’t take long until I was hooked.
All the things I hated about Snapchat in the beginning are the things I love most about it now. So many options – photo, video, filters, captions … the world is my oyster! I pick and choose who I want to watch instead of endlessly scrolling through a feed??? YES! I’m not judging my self-worth based on how many “likes” my snap received??? THIS FEELS AMAZING.
Okay, but seriously, I often refer to Snapchat as the anti-Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a slave to The Facebook and it’s not going away soon. I understand that. But while I post on Facebook and then refresh, refresh, refresh waiting to see who out there cares enough to like or comment, with Snapchat I post and forget it. It’s so freeing. Since you can’t see how “popular” your friends’ posts are, there’s no pressure to post the prettiest photo, the funniest joke, or the most interesting video. You just post what’s interesting to you. And you watch what’s interesting to you. While I know that Kylie Jenner has more Snapchat followers than I do, I can’t see the numbers on the screen. The playing field seems even. And in a world of social media competition, that feels great.
What is Snapchat?
So what exactly is Snapchat? Snapchat is a mobile app (iPhone and Android) social network. You create an account and you share whatever you feel like sharing – photos, videos, etc.
There are two ways to share – you can send snaps to people privately, or you can upload snaps to your Story. Under “My Story,” your snaps are viewable by anyone who follows you or people you choose to see them (you can adjust this privacy setting) for a rolling 24 hours. You can easily see how many people have viewed your snaps, and who. You can also see if anyone has taken a screenshot of your snaps.
If you send a snap privately, the receiving party can view your snap and then it disappears. Snapchat recently added a feature that allows you to replay snaps one time, but you have to replay it quickly! You will also be notified if anyone takes a screenshot of your snap.
Because of the nature of Snapchat’s “send and disappear” format, people assume sexting and nude photos are commonplace. People call it the “cheating app.” I can say I’ve been on Snapchat for several months and no one has sent me nude photos, sadly. I’ve never been tempted to sext any of my friends. The thought of sending nude pictures of me anywhere through the internet gives me a mild heart attack. If people want to sext and cheat, they will find a way to do it. It happens everywhere … Twitter DM’s, Facebook messenger, and I’m sure it happens on Snapchat, too. But, it’s not how I use. Or how any of my friends use it. I’m smart enough to know that nothing on the Internet is TRULY private. So if your friends are trying to sext you, my suggestion is …. find better friends. And don’t add anyone on Snapchat you don’t recognize.
How the Heck Do you Use Snapchat?
First of all, I’ll say it’s so much easier if you can get an in-person tutorial about how to use Snapchat. Do you know any 13 year olds who can teach you? If not, I’ll do my best to give you a basic overview on how to use it. And honestly, the easiest way to get to know Snapchat is to keep using it. It seems strange at first, especially if you’re used to more traditional social media platforms. But with enough use it will become second nature.
The app will always open to the camera screen. The round button on the bottom is how you take your snaps – press to take a picture, hold down to take a video (up to 10 seconds). The smaller round button below takes you to the Memories feature (more on that later). Press the camera icon in the upper right corner to switch between rear and front facing cameras.
Swipe right or press the chat icon on the lower left to go to your private messaging page. (Names have been blurred out to protect the innocent.)
Swipe left or press the icon on the lower right to go to your Stories page.
On the Stories page you can watch your friends’ stories, post to your own story, and see how many people have watched your snaps. You can also see if anyone has taken a screenshot of your snaps, indicated by a little green mark.
The little ghost at the top is how you add friends. If it’s highlighted in yellow, you have a new friend request. This screen is also how you search and add new people to follow. You can also grab your snapcode from here. The yellow ghost image with the dots in it is your unique snapcode, which you can send to people to easily follow you.
Now that you know your way around, let’s go back to the camera screen. As I stated earlier, you can share photos or short videos. I’ll just quickly show you how you can play around with your photos and videos using this selfie as an example.
Swipe either left or right to apply different filters.
Keep swiping to add things like the time, temperature, or a geofilter. Geofilters are specific to your location. I live in Burbank so I have a couple filters for the San Fernando Valley (but there is no Burbank filter except for the Downtown Burbank area, which is strange).
The number in the lower left corner is the number of seconds you want your photo snap to last. You can choose between 1 and 10 seconds. Since Snapchat is fast-paced, I usually set my images for 4 or 5 seconds, unless I have a lot of text on the screen, then I’ll set it for 10 seconds. Right next to the number is an icon of an arrow pointing down. Press this to save the snap to your camera roll.
In the upper right corner there are three icons. The first icon looks like a square sticker; click on this to add stickers and emojis. You can add more than one, and you can resize them by pinching in and out. You can also “pin” them to a video by placing the sticker or emoji on the video then holding your finger down on the sticker for a second or two.
The middle icon that looks like an Uppercase “T” allows you to add text. There are two options – small text with a black background, or press the “T” again to shuffle to larger text where you can change the size and color.
The third icon looks like pencil; this is the drawing tool. You can use your finger or a stylus to draw on the screen, and you can change the colors.
When you are happy with your masterpiece, click on the arrow in the lower right corner and it will take you to your Story screen. From here you can choose to add your snap to your story, or if you want to send it to friends privately, or both!
In summer 2016 Snapchat introduced the “Memories” function, allowing snappers to finally add past snaps and photos from their camera roll into their stories. The response from the Snapchat community has been mixed. A lot of people are happy they can now share phone pictures or higher quality pictures into their stories. Some people are angry that this feature makes Snapchat like all the other social networks, where content is carefully curated. I am not quite sure how I feel about Memories yet, but I will say it’s nice to have the option available now. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use the Memories feature.
On the camera screen, press the small circle below the larger circle in the middle. It will take you to a screen where you can access past snaps, downloaded stories, or your phone’s camera roll.
For this example I’m going to use an image from my camera roll. Once you have your image selected, swipe up to “edit & send.”
From here, you can press the blue and white arrow icon to share it in your story or as a direct message, or press the pencil icon to add text, drawing, or stickers.
VERY IMPORTANT! For some reason the Memories snaps default to 1 second, so be sure to tap on that number in the lower left corner and change it (if you want).
When you’re ready to send your snap, click on that blue and white arrow icon and select My Story or send it as a direct snap. It will show up in your Story with a white background, and it will indicate when the photo was taken. (I apologize for the abrupt photo change. I forgot to screenshot the other one.)
Once your Memories snap is sent, the screen will go back to the image editing page. Swipe down to get back to the Memories page, then press the large circle at the bottom to clear out of it.
One final lesson – face filters. In my opinion, this is one of the most fun parts of snapchat. Their face filter technology is really impressive, and they have new filters to choose from every day.
In order to access filters (and other fun things like the temperature filter and geofilters), you’ll need to adjust your settings.
Go to your “ghost” screen and click on the gear in the upper right corner. Click on “Manage,” then toggle the “Filters” to green.
Then return to your camera screen and put it in selfie mode (aka you can see your face in the screen). Press down on the screen where your face is and hold for a second or two … a white mapping should appear over your face and round filter icons will appear at the bottom. Press the icons to select the filter. (If the white mapping doesn’t show up, try adjusting the angle you’re holding your phone or the lighting on your face. The camera needs to see your face clearly.)
All that’s left to do now is have fun with filters! You can record a small video or take a still.
One of the newest filters allows you to “face swap” with images in your camera roll. I chose to swap my face with Donald Trump. Pretty terrifying, huh? I’m not sure why I have so many images of him stored on my phone, but I do.
I hope this quick rundown of how Snapchat works was helpful to anyone who has been wondering about the platform. There is so much to learn so if you have any questions or if I skipped over something important, please leave your question in the comments. I really love Snapchat and I hope to see you all over there, so be sure you’re following me @mindyjoym, or if you’re on mobile you can save my snapcode to your camera roll or use this link —-> snapchat.com/add/mindyjoym
If you’re on Snapchat, leave your username in the comments so I can follow you! Happy snapping!