Hands holding Snapchat logo.

Unless you have been living under a rock, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve heard of Snapchat. For the uninitiated, Snapchat is a mobile messaging application used to capture funny moments via a photo or a short video. What sets it apart from other social media applications is that nothing’s permanent in the world of Snapchat. 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. What more, you can even add a caption, doodle all over a particular snap or use its super popular lens feature to create unique, personalized and absolutely delightful snaps.

The best part about Snapchat is that it’s free to download which has made it super popular amongst adults and teenagers around the world. There’s so much to do on Snapchat that even familiar users often get confused with its plethora of features. Snapchat is growing up pretty quickly and its multitude of revolutionary updates has made it evolve into one of the most complete and engaging communication platforms on the market today Through this article I am going to shed some light on everything Snapchat has to offer; What is Snapchat, how it works and all its various nitty-grittys.

Young girl using snapchat

The Inspiration behind Snapchat

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.

Social media has been home to various horror stories which have affected both adults and teenagers alike. Stories about employees getting told off or even fired due to a personal rant or unprofessional and unflattering photos posted by them on a social media platform aren’t uncommon to hear. Similarly, children and teenagers posting inappropriate photos, in the spur of the moment, have often come back to haunt them later. In a nutshell, social media can leave a paper trail which can have far fetching consequences.

Three budding students from Stanford University took it upon themselves to change all that. Tired of people complaining about not being able to express themselves on social media without the fear of being judged, these three friends created Snapchat to address all those apprehensions and turn the concept into a functioning reality. Basically, an ephemeral platform where nothing stays permanent, Snapchat encourages users to be spontaneous, crazy and carefree.

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.

• 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.

An apple iPhone showing the snapchat application alongside other snapchat logos

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.

• 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.

How does Snapchat work?

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.

• Adding friends

To enjoy the Snapchat experience, you obviously need to add friends. Once you are on the main camera screen you can either choose to swipe down or click on the ‘Ghost’ icon right on the top of the screen to view several options. Here you can click on the add friends option and you can then choose to add a friend either via his snapcode or username, from your device’s address book or scan someone’s Snapchat code through the inbuilt scanner. Another way to add friends is by using the ‘Add Nearby’ option which lets you add friends who are in the vicinity or close proximity.

• Clicking and Sending Snaps

Clicking a snap is as easy as 1-2-3; simply click a photo or take a video like you would do on your default camera phone application, choose to add a filter or customize it the way you want, and send it across to all your friends to see via “My Story’ or simply select a friend/’s and send it across. It needs to be mentioned that snaps won’t ‘self-destruct’ automatically if you publish them in my story. Every time someone replays a snap or takes a screenshot, you get alerted of the same. Snaps sent on “My Story” remain published for 24 hours while snaps sent individually to a friend or set of friends will expire within the desired time frame you assign the snap. Furthermore, your friends can view your story as many times as they want without you getting alerted.

Snapchat application on android cell smartphone

• Snapchat Trophies

Snapchat trophies are like achievements; you unlock them every time you hit a goal like for instance, sending a snap with a filter. These trophies are hidden so there’s no way of you knowing what you need to do to unlock them till the time they get unlocked. To access trophies, swipe down from the main screen and you’ll see a trophy icon right on top in the center. Tap it and you’ll see what trophies you’ve managed to unlock

• 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 like National Geographic, IGN, MTV, CNN and so forth specifically created for Snapchat. This channel replicates a News feed and delivers fresh content every 24 hours.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• Snapchat Spectacles

Snapchat spectacles are a new addition introduced in October 2016. Priced at $129.99, they let you record videos which automatically get uploaded onto your Snapchat memories. They will be available in three color options; teal, coral and black and will feature a camera with 115-degree lens.

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. Gone are the days when the USP used to be only about sending disappearing content; it’s way more than that now. With its plethora of updates and features, it’s also about genuinely connecting with people and is a medium where unlike before, you can save your memories as you go. I hope through this article , you have gotten an insight into “What is Snapchat.” If you haven’t used Snapchat yet, go jump onto the bandwagon and snap away.