What has Snapchat done to generation Z?

Story by Zian Ang

Artwork by Ashley Kron

“Wait, what was that again?” cognitive psychology professor Marina Kahana thought to herself as she used Snapchat for the first time.

Astounded by how Snapchat works, “The picture appears and then it’s gone,” she explained. “And that is what attracts young people, especially college students.”

There are statistics as proof. It has 100 million monthly active users, 400 million snaps sent and 1 billion stories viewed per day. The traffic consists of 70 percent college students in the U.S. who post to Snapchat daily.

Snapchat’s 10-second rule hits the psychological sweet spot for college students by creating bite-sized content for the average human attention span. A 31 percent decrease from 2000, the current average human attention span lasts only 8.25 seconds, according to a research by Statistic Brain Research Institute.

Danah Boyd, principal researcher of Microsoft Research, explains in her blog at zephoria.org, “In a digital world where everyone’s swipping through headshots, images, and text without processing any of it, Snapchat asks you to stand still and pay attention to the gift that someone in your network just gave you,” she wrote.

“I watch them tune out everything else and just concentrate on what’s in front of them – rather than serving as yet another distraction, Snapchat invites focus.”

Instead, Kahana suggests that generation Z has more distractions and excels in multitasking. “I teach in class, and I know that people are taking notes on their computers while they’re up on Facebook with a buzzing phone,” she said. “There are all these different demands for their attention, and they still manage to be productive as individuals, so I give them credit for it.”

Sites like ‘Thought Catalog’ or ‘Buzzfeed’ attempt to define a Snapchat addict with listicles like “16 Signs You’re Addicted To Snapchat”. However, finance major Shayda Khorasani defines it as “someone who is constantly sending snaps or updating their story with useless snaps.”

“When they aren’t snapchatting, they wish they were and instead of enjoying whatever they’re doing, they’re thinking of snapchatting it to show everyone what they’re up to,” Khorasani said.

“Whether you’re at a concert or just hiked to the top of a mountain with a beautiful view, it’s much more important to take in and appreciate the moment, rather than try to share it with others,” Khorasani explained. “The actual thing will always be better than a picture or video of it.”

International business major Aishwarya Ravi thinks Snapchat can be very deceiving. “If I’m sitting at a crowded bar by myself, I could take out my phone and tape a ten-second video then put it up my story,” she said. “By doing so, everyone could think that I’m having fun when I’m actually not.”

Kahana had an explanation for that: “There’s this new idea that the unrecorded life isn’t worth living, and that’s just becoming more and more prevalent,” she said. “They need this validation of it being reported and then shared with other people.

It’s a shift in worldview, that things have to be shared to be experienced,” she added.

Aastha Malik is a self-admitted Snapchat addict. “I honestly can’t even count the number of times I open Snapchat in a day,” said the economics major. “It’s like my fingers automatically go onto the app as soon as I unlock my phone, and it is the first thing I check in the morning.”

The existence of Snapchat plays a prominent role in the infamous ‘selfie’ trend. While there are students who think that the selfie-taking trend should be abolished, kinesiology major Fiona Chu has no qualms about taking photos of herself in public.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal. Since a lot of people use it, they’ll see me taking a picture of myself and know that it’s just for Snapchat,” Chu said. Chu has a Snapchat score of 59,000, which means she has sent and received a total of 59,000 snaps, or have opened the app at least 50,000 times so far.  

Is that too much?


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