Molly Templeton, a wildly successful YouTuber at the dawn of the platform is now a part of EA1, and still has the same pulse as online trends. Joslyn brought Templeton’s exploration of delete culture to my attention. Here’s the definition for your convenience:
This is shown by Instagram accounts that only keep 9 photos at a time. Tweets are deleted shortly after they’re posted. It further emphasizes Snapchat’s relevance. I’ll admit I originally thought the app was a passing fad, and I’m glad to be wrong.
“DELETE IS OUR DEFAULT”
That is so powerful to me because it explains why Snapchat hasn’t faded away. The company realized this trend (even if by accident or personal need) and capitalized on it.
People are pushing back and trying to take control of their information. Snapchat is certainly collecting information–no question about that–but it’s part of a larger trend to keep what’s in the moment and not more. I realize the implications for data analysis–I’m a data geek and I love taking all the information I can and making sense of it. It’s going to change the way metrics are calculated and goals are achieved, but truthfully, there are plenty of ways to capitalize on the now and the software exists to keep pace with it.
Let’s look at this from a personal perspective: I joined Facebook when I was a sophomore in high school; I’ve since removed dozens of photos of teenage awkwardness. The now-teenager I once babysat already has Facebook and Instagram–all before the eighth grade. If you’re a child growing up with technology, think of that backlog you’ll have to remove once you’re entering college. Your embarrassing childhood photos are no longer tucked away in our family’s photo albums; they’re digitally available and indexed. Facebook is no longer the fun yearbook we believed it to be; it’s unwanted record of our past selves.
Snapchat’s service is unlike anything previously offered in the social, let alone mobile, space. We can share those same moments with friends, without the documentation. Perhaps it’s also a sidestep around cyberbullying (although certainly not a cure): the content doesn’t live on for hours for continued ridicule, judgement, or evaluation (I know that would’ve solved some of the issues I encountered). I’m admittedly ignoring the loopholes in the system: Snapchat’s database and the screenshot feature. For the purpose of this piece, I’m focusing singularly on the value proposition this platform offers in relation to the growing need to share the now, not save the past and present for future review.
Snapchat, probably unknowingly, took a page out of the biggest startup in the world’s book–Google. Snapchat can pride itself on its technical difference of ephemeral communication. There are few to none services that provide the same benefit; its service is growing so rapidly and providing so much value, it would take another platforms months to get to this level (although I’m sure some are trying). In How Google Works, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg that Google’s best products have a technical difference that no one can match. Google Search is relevant and fast. YouTube makes video sharable and accessible anywhere. Gmail is free, intuitive email that travels with you. The products that haven’t faired as well (cough cough, Google+) lacked that technical difference users would find valuable. There were too many other competitors with similar offerings in the space. Snapchat developed a product that hit at a core issue–sharing the present in the present–and built around that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this resistance to corporate control and data aggregation. A few years ago, an NYU graduate student recorded all his own information. He tracked his travels, his browsing history, everything he could using his own methods. He explored the idea that the individual user could collect, and sell, their own data. Rather than the company mine it (even if it is with our permission when we sign up) and profit off of it, we collect our own information and profit ourselves. Individually it might not amount to useful information for a company, but the aggregation of many people doing this could provide vast amounts of information that directly pays the user for sacrificing some privacy.
There’s something to be said for secrecy–it gives a sense of exclusivity. Even Everybody at Once seems to adopt this mentality. The website is structured so that they’re only discoverable by familiarity with internet culture–which is what they both specialize in and thrive off of. This firm, in their own words, does “audience development and social strategy for media, entertainment, and sports.” Their work–including the “Clone Club” for Orphan Black– works not to interrupt the social space, but operate within it. It’s the pinnacle of content marketing, uniting community and encouraging real-time viewing in a space that is accessible 24/7–an understanding we can all learn to operate within.