Honestly, being on a self-imposed break from checking social media too often has left me wondering what “social media” can be for me. My circle of friends is incredibly small, but scattered all across the United States’ East Coast, as well as parts of Europe, and Australia. Social media is basically required to keep up with any of them.
In middle school and high school, at least here in the US, you had a few options: iMessage or Snapchat. And basically everyone had Snapchat. It’s what we all used to communicate with each other. I’ve been on the app since 2012, when it first became available on Android, and I’ve grown used to Snapping back and forth with classmates or whatever.
Even after all these years, and the drama that shit on Snapchat caused during high school specifically, I think it is one of the healthier platforms out there. Twitter certainly isn’t, Facebook feels like a place to go for “old people drama,” and Instagram is fine, I guess but really isn’t the same. Which is why I elected to keep Snapchat on my phone: most of my friends are on it, and there’s an incentive to keeping in regular contact with them.
I have my own gripes with Snapchat, of course, but they aren’t shoving ads down your throat or some algorithmic timeline. It’s an intent-based social media network: you want to talk to your friends, you talk to your friends. You can either Snap them, or Chat them, or both! You can talk almost daily and inevitably start a streak. There are no barriers to entry, and no algorithms telling you what you can or can’t see based on what you might like. The timeline’s there, of course, but you have to go looking for it.
Bottom line is: You just do the thing you want to do and just like that, it’s done.
It’s the same thing with platforms like Mastodon and Bluesky, which are similarly intent-based: you tell it what you want to do, and it does the thing you want it to do. It doesn’t complain, it doesn’t tell you you’ll lose functionality (because you don’t), it just does. It makes things less addicting and more engaging. In my opinion, that’s a balance we all need to have in this heavily internet-connected world. I’m so happy to have finally found that balance.
And frankly, there’s something to appreciate about that approach to creating software: giving users the tools to use the thing however it works for them. Especially in this day and age, where companies demand more and more control over how their things work alone, or with other services (or, rather, how they don’t do either and close off their products to other third-parties, requiring first-party subscription services for the device be fully functional. I’m looking at you, Apple.)
I’m happy with what Snapchat has offered in this space. Intent-based social media apps matter, and regardless of some of my own complaints with it, it has honestly made a significantly positive impact on my friendships, and helped make them stronger… so I can forgive some of its shortcomings, for sure.