The rise of Snapchat
Our reporter on the slow-burning social media trend whose popularity has recently exploded
Recently, you may have heard somebody talking about Snapchat, or even seen people talking at their phone while walking down the street, a kind of behaviour that might have looked a bit odd just a few years ago.
Chances are, this person is in their 20s or early 30s and already well versed in the ways of online communication; they'll have a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, or all three. Yet while social media is ubiquitous, it seems Snapchat is the stand-out download of the moment if you want to stay on trend online.
The app allows users to send Snaps (which can be video, images or words, or a combination of all three) either privately to other users, or to add them to a "story" that their followers can see.
The unique selling point of Snapchat is that Snaps disappear - either in 10 seconds when sent directly, or when the story expires after 24 hours.
When it originally launched, this self-destruct element meant the app became famous as a tool for sexting - sending raunchy images - that would then disappear.
However since then, it's evolved to the point where it can be almost like a mini reality TV show.
While the app itself has been around for four years, its popularity has snowballed in Ireland - astonishingly, 22pc of over 15 year olds in Ireland now have a Snapchat account and numbers continue to climb - and that's all down to the influencers using it.
Celebrity blogger Pippa O'Connor, right, is a fan, and so are SoSueMe.ie's Suzanne Jackson and model Holly Carpenter. They use it to tell their followers what they're wearing, and to share behind-the-scenes moments from photoshoots, as well as chronicling nights.
Providing a formerly rare glimpse in to their glamorous lives keeps the followers coming, but mere mortals without a high-profile following are also jumping on board to share the minutiae of their day.
"I love Snapchat because it is a direct way to interact with my followers," says blogger and beauty guru Jackson. "I also love vlogging (video blogging) on YouTube, but that can be quite time consuming so Snapchat is a much easier way of letting your followers in to your everyday life and activities. Another thing I love is that sometimes a persona about you is created when followers are just reading about your life online, and sometimes they might get the wrong impression.
"With Snapchat you can show your followers the real you and it's much more personal and easier to relate to."
It's also seen as more light-hearted than other apps - because a lot of the content is video-based, users are looking for laughs.
Rosemary Mac Cabe, deputy editor of Stellar magazine, says her Snapchat experience started out as nosiness, but she can't imagine not using the app now. "I focus on the people I find really irritating - the lovely people are great, but I love seeing people having a moan or a rant. It's voyeurism at its best," she says.
"Compared to other social media, where things have to be beautiful, intelligent or insightful, it's just really kind of crap. I like how imperfect it is."
Rosemary also feels like its benefited her other social networking. "Engagement is higher on Snapchat than any other form of social media I've used. I'll post a video talking about how my day went, and five people will snap me to ask where my necklace is from."
Another person that's seen their profile skyrocket is PR professional James Kavanagh. The Dublin native's satirical videos mock other users, particularly high-profile ones, albeit gently and with a comic edge.
"I have a few things I like to repeatedly do on Snapchat," he says. "My favourite thing to do is scare my boyfriend; he's hilariously jumpy. I also like to become this self-obsessed 'blogger' parody who's a bit rude and condescending, and does silly 'tutorials' such as 'five ways to get rid of a basic bitch'.
"My standard greeting in that persona is 'Hi plebs'. It's just an idea that popped into my head and people seem to find it funny so I roll with it."
People find it so funny in fact, that James has been featured on several media sites and in magazines.
But it's not all about looking for laughs and giving others a glimpse in to your life. It seems that those who have previously taken issue with the privacy and longevity of posts on other social networks find Snapchat the safest way to share.
"It's certainly more private than other social networks and that's the big appeal," says Michael Wilson, a digital data analyst with Glowmetrics.
"For teenagers especially - you might Snapchat something and send it to your best friends that you'd never upload to Facebook because you wouldn't want it being online forever. Plus your mum's probably on Facebook now and you don't want her seeing it."
However it's also taking off among young parents who don't want to post pictures of their children to Facebook and thus create a digital footprint for them they might not appreciate when they're older.
"The way I view Snapchat is that it's for your inner circle," says Michael.
"It's dead quick, simple and it's a bit of fun. And there's less chance of something you post coming back to haunt you in years to come."
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