hand holding a Samsung Galaxy Tab S which displays the installation screen of the Snapchat app

1. What is Snapchat?
2. How is Snapchat different from other Social Media?

  • 2.1 Unique Content
  • 2.2 Privacy
  • 2.3 It’s authentic, genuine and unfiltered
  • 2.4 It’s fun and immersive

3. Common Snapchat Jargon

  • 3.1 Snapcode
  • 3.2 Snaps
  • 3.3 Snapstreak and Emojis
  • 3.4 Lenses
  • 3.5 Filters
  • 3.6 Captions, Stickers, and Doodles

4. How does one communicate in Snapchat?

  • 4.1 Clicking and Sending Snaps
  • 4.2 Using Bitmoji
  • 4.3 Placing a Call
  • 4.4 Snapchat Scores
  • 4.5 Snapchat Discover

What is Snapchat?

Very little has been spoken and mentioned about the impact of ephemeral messaging technologies such as Snapchat in today’s tech savvy social networking world. Social media can be a great tool for connecting people and for staying in touch with friends amongst a whole host of other advantages. But one of the inherent risks attached to using social media is whatever you post on a social media platform stays there which means someone connected to you can access something you said or access embarrassing photos from the past which they weren’t meant to see.

There seems to be a major explosion of these disappearing data applications that rely on data self-destruct mechanisms. Disappearing or self destructing social media outlets like Snapchat actually allow young adults an opportunity to experiment with a wide range of social discourses and demonstrate new ways to communicate with their social media peers. Ephemeral messaging with self destructing data gives users the chance to capture and share temporary moments rather than posting more permanent images which may or may not come back to haunt them later. All videos and photos are scheduled to ‘self-destruct’ 24 hours after sharing them on your ‘story’. If you don’t want it to be broadcasted to everyone on your list, you can alternatively send them to select friends, who can view them for 10 seconds, and then the snaps simply vanish. Snapchat has come a long way from being a ‘teenage’ only app to now being a comprehensive social media application catering to all age groups. Basically, an ephemeral platform where nothing stays permanent, Snapchat encourages users to be spontaneous, crazy and carefree. Snapchat has become a phenomenon.

Photo of the Google Play Store on a monitor screen, showing the top social apps

How is Snapchat different from other Social Media?

  1. Unique Content
    Unlike Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, Snapchat lays more emphasis on diving into your creative channels to create new riveting content and posting it than just being a casual passenger and passively browsing through other content or posts ala Facebook. When you open up Snapchat, you won’t be bombarded with a newsfeed or a bunch of information. You simply will be presented with a camera and how you use it depends on the varying levels of creativity you have. This minimalistic approach is actually part of the developer’s strategy to entice users into creating goofy snap content to send across to a friend or bunch of friends and keep them engaged.
  2. Privacy
    Where Snapchat has a clear edge over its rivals is because of the company’s utter focus and dedication to maintain you secrecy and privacy. You can not only choose who you want to share information with it, but also can ensure that it doesn’t remain permanent either. It’s entirely your discretion if you want to broadcast something to all your followers or not.

Whenever you create and send across a snap, Snapchat not only gives you the option to send it to your friends, but also you can choose to add snaps to ‘My Story’ which makes it visible to all your followers for duration of 24 hours. Simply put, unlike other social media applications, Snapchat enables you to either privately snap your raunchy photos and goofy videos to a select few people, or if you’re feeling bold, make them public to all your followers. The onus is on you. This sets it apart from other social media applications, where content is far more in the public eye and also permanent, and keeping it hidden or private is often just an afterthought.

Furthermore, Snapchat says that all the snaps are deleted from its servers, too which is a source of major relief for a lot of people, who may have made several mistakes by posting images or videos in the spur of the moment which may have come back to haunt them later. Snapchat lets them to stay out of trouble on social media.

Samsung phone + install page Snapchat app on Play Store.

  1. It’s authentic, genuine and unfiltered
    Unlike a lot of social media applications like Instagram, Snapchat stays true to its core; its authentic and conveys the user’s true personality at all times. Instagram and others have often been accused of being fake because of the number of filters and customizations give it the least authentic outlook towards reality. That along with the race to get the maximum number of likes/shares makes it more like a popularity contest where one tries to outdo each other.

Snapchat takes all these things out of the equation and presents a far more structured interface. There’s nothing to like or share on Snapchat and no one knows how many people have seen your snap either. This makes for a far more immersive social experience than something staged like on Facebook or Instagram and the end result is content that seems more genuine than what you can find anywhere else.

  1. It’s fun and immersive
    Snapchat updates it filters almost on a daily basis along with new stickers, variety of geo-filters whilst constantly upgrading its core messaging service to keep things fresh and interesting. All these updates seem to have one sole purpose to keep Snapchat fun and engaging for its users at all times.

Even its Discover content section, which is probably the least explored and talked about feature of Snapchat, still manages to be far more engaging and captivating than other social media add on’s.

Common Snapchat Jargon

Before I dwell into how Snapchat works, let me explain some of the commonly used lingo ,Snapchat uses, to avoid any confusion later.

Samsung phone + install page Snapchat app on Play Store

  • Snapcode: Snapcodes are basically your username and is located in the center of your profile screen. Every snapcode is unique and friends can simply scan each other’s codes or share a screenshot of the code to add each other.
  • Snaps: Any photo or video taken by Snapchat classifies as a Snap. Once you click a snap, you can either publish it to “My Story” or send the snap individually to a friend or even multiple friends. If you choose to send a friend a snap, it can be viewed by them for up to 10 seconds before it vanishes. They, however, can replay a snap once and you will be alerted of the same.
  • Snapstreak and Emojis: When you regularly start ‘snapchatting’ with your friends, you will notice they have a different set of emojis next to their Snapchat names on the chat screen. Friends with a ‘Burning Fire’ emoji and a number next to their names mean you and your friend have exchanged snaps for ‘x’ number of consecutive days. However, if you don’t send each other a snap at least once every 24 hours, you will forfeit your streak.

Similarly, there might be an emoji next to friends who you don’t even Snapchat on a daily basis. There are a range of emojis and each emoji has a different meaning attached to them ranging from best friends to mutual besties; you can view the meaning and even customize these emojis in the ‘Friend Emoji’ option under settings.

a hand holding a Samsung Galaxy S5 mini which displays the installation screen of the Snapchat app

  • Lenses: Lenses are essentially what makes the Snapchat experience so engaging and so much fun. It incorporates the use of facial recognition software which enables you to add real-time special effects and sounds via lenses by simply pressing and holding on the viewfinder when a person’s face is in clear view. You can use the front facing camera to focus on your face or use the primary back camera to focus on the friend’s face, post which a wireframe mesh pops up. Once you do this, by simply opening your mouth or raising your eyebrows as prompted on the screen, you get to choose from a variety of different options from funny animal faces to really creative 3D overlays. Lenses are a blast to play around with and the Snapchat team revamps the lenses very often to keep the whole experience, interesting and fun.
  • Filters: With the help of filters, you can further jazz up your snaps by adding an overlay to the existing snap. Filters are fun and easy to use. Once you click a snap, just swipe left or right on the screen to play around with a range of options from current temperature to color filters or the ultra fun slow motion filters or rewind filters. You can even add location-based Geofilters so that your friends are constantly in the loop about your whereabouts. Moreover, if you want to add another filter into this mix, even that’s possible. After you have finished applying your first filter, simply hold your finger down on the image and swipe either left or right to add an additional filter.
  • Captions, Stickers, and Doodles: In addition to the assortment of filters and lenses, Snapchat lets you further personalize your snap by way of text, doodles, and stickers. If you like adding captions to snaps, tap the ‘T’ icon on top of the screen once you have clicked a snap. This brings up a small text box where you can write up to two lines of text. Clicking on it again turns it into a larger bold text which you can reorient all across the screen or even add a dash of color.

There might be times where you might want to highlight something in a snap; something interesting which might otherwise miss the person’s eye. With the help of the pen tool, you can add a doodle or write in a funky manner to grab the person’s attention. Furthermore, you have multiple color options to play with as well. Stickers add another element of creativity and fun; they are simply emoji’s which you can scale in size and position anywhere in a snap, even videos! You can from amongst a pool of over 200 stickers to include in your conversations.

Man's hand use tablet. Snapchat app is on the screen

How does one communicate in Snapchat?

Snapchat Creators have insisted that they want Snapchat to be the best way for friends and people to communicate second only to real-life face-to-face conversations. That being said, Snapchat indeed is so impersonal that it feels akin to buddies hanging out in real time. Let me elaborate how.

  1. Clicking and Sending Snaps
    Snapchat enables users to take a snap of what they are currently doing or a snap of where they are and then further customize it with text, doodles, or tones of inbuilt stickers and send it to everyone on your list(my story) or a select bunch of friends by choosing the one’s you want your snap to be shared with. It needs to be mentioned that snaps won’t ‘self-destruct’ automatically if you publish them in my story.

You can also use the regularly updated selfie lenses and have a ball with it to keep yourself and all your friends entertained by sending and snapping pictures of yourself as a cat, an old woman, an alien, a variety of fruits or even swap faces with a friend your sitting next to or swap faces with pictures you already have saved on your phone. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

  1. Using Bitmoji
    The latest version of Snapchat has introduced a cool feature called Bitmoji. Bitmoji’s allow you and you friend to see ‘friendmojis’ everytime you send them a snap or reply to their snap. To activate Bitmoji, however, you need to download the latest version of Bitmoji App and update your Snapchat to the latest version.
  2. Placing a call
    In addition to incognito text messaging, Snapchat also lets you make video calls. To start a video call, simply go into a chat box and click on the phone button to initiate an audio call and video camera button to initiate a live video call. On doing so, the person who’s receiving the call has to option to either ‘watch’ or ‘join’ the call. Simply put, if your friend decides to watch, you won’t be able to see them but they will be able to hear and see you.
  3. Snapchat Scores
    If you’re wondering what the number next to your username signifies then wonder no more; it’s called a Snapchat score or points which are awarded based on your Snapchat usage. Snapchat hasn’t given out guidelines on how to earn these points and instead has put the onus on the user to figure them out as they snap. To view your score, simply swipe the screen down and your score will appear under your snapcode. Your friend’s score can be viewed by going into your contacts and tapping their name. They key takeaway here is there’s no significance of having a lower or higher Snapscore. It’s a fun way to keep track of your usage as well as your friend’s and a way to indicate to others, how well your social media presence on Snapchat is working.
  4. Snapchat Discover
    In addition to viewing your friend’s snaps and stories, Snapchat has a ‘Discover’ section where you will find content from publishers and media outlets. Snapchat users can view stories from brands like IGN, CNN, ESPN, MTV, National Geographic and a myriad of others specifically created for Snapchat. These channels replicate News feed and delivers fresh content every 24 hours.

How to Download Snapchat?

Snapchat is only available for download on two platforms as of now; iOS and Android. To download Snapchat, launch your device’s application store, App store in case of iOS and Google Play in case of Android, and search for Snapchat. Atlernatively, you can also go to the top rated or top free app categories and Snapchat will surely be listed in the top-10 list of most popular free applications out there.
Download: iOS / Android

There are ways to use Snapchat on non-iOS and non-Android devices, but those aren’t supported by Snapchat legally and are often buggy so best left avoided.