Friday, December 27, 2013

How Snapchat Destroyed The Idea of Fun

Official Snapchat pic: but this totally isn't just an app for n00ds...

Ahhh, remember we used to have such fun?

No, seriously, that isn't just preening nostalgia for the sake of it, it's a serious question: do you actually remember?! Because I've downloaded Snapchat recently and now my entire concept of fun revolves around me not actually enjoying myself.

Previous generations (a previous generation, in the technological era that is, can count as recently as five years ago) used to define the word fun as engaging in enjoyable activities. Activities that offer excitement, exhilaration, laughter, passion. Think go-karting, going to a gig, having a few sociables with your mates, funfairs, getting the ride. Activities with some kind of payoff.

It was Bebo that began to erode what 1980's and 90's babies considered to be fun. Remember the explosion of the idea of 'Bebo pics'? Remember how you'd go out to a pub or club and see those girls: dolled up to the nines yet seemingly uninterested in partaking in anything else other than duck-facing into their mate's digital camera all night while holding colourful cocktails? Or you'd be friends with them on Bebo and none of the pictures they'd upload - that, let's face it, you looked at because they're still hot despite them being completely devoid of any kind of tangible, unique personality - ever, ever varied? It was either a selfie in the mirror of their local's jacks or the "WOOO!!! COCKTAILS!" group pic. Occasionally there'd be a gathering of shell-shocked looking men creeping in the background, baffled as to why their charms aren't working on women clearly oblivious to anyone else existing in the world besides themselves. But that was about as exciting and different as it got. That was their weekend, every weekend.

It's funny because it's colourful, see.

That ability to capitalise financially on people's sickening vanity soon graduated onto Facebook, before that soon became overrun by idiots and pages like 'U Ok Hun' satirising this consistent level of idiocy that we all identified with became the only original material on the site. Those who had something to say realised their talents were better served on Twitter, and those that only had the same, now graudually-ageing duck-faces to share fled to Snapchat.

Snapchat has had an interesting timeline. Though its creators deny it, the idea was obviously conceptualised as a way to combat revenge pics leaking. What other basic human need would give you that Eureka moment? Most of us still remember when merely having a camera on your phone was all the rage, and how that quickly backfired when people adopted it for sexual purposes. There was outrage and condemnation as people started forwarding private n00ds around to their friends list when relationships went sour. This practise continued onto social networking (has anyone done a recent check on Slane Girl's emotional stability?), yet as years went on nobody seemed to have the Eureka moment to, y'know, not send discreet pictures that they didn't want the world to see.

Nope, the general public wanted to send pictures of their dicks, just as much as they wanted to share pictures of underage, possibly-drugged girls sucking on numerous dicks at music festivals. Thus begat a market for a service like Snapchat which, unlike the likes of ChatRoulette - which was a genuinely innocent idea aimed at lonely people looking to reach out to strangers that later became overrun by the rapey among us - was a service that was born with crude intentions and evolved to a more innocent path (though obviously that doesn't mean the sexual element has gone away).

ChatRoulette had such potential until you creeps ruined it...

You probably aren't reading this if you don't know how Snapchat works, so I won't go through it, but by 2012 (less than six months into its life) the app was blowing up with up to 25 snaps being sent per second. Fear not, those who are now worried that the entire world is sending naked pictures to one another except for lonely old you, that's not because everybody got indoors and took their kit off to show all of their mates (except for, as we've discussed, you) their Titty Tuesday and Funbags Friday collection. It's because the duck-faces had entered the building.

Yes, it turns out that those same empty, vacuous, vain banes among life are actually quite the market, and they just found it hi-larious that instead of texting their mates saying "Yes, I will be there to celebrate your birthday on Friday. Woo cocktails!" and communicating information on an as-needed basis, they could now send a picture of them slightly sucking their cheeks in as an RSVP instead. How fun! We've found a new, uninteresting way to say things that weren't that interesting to begin with! And they say technology advances are becoming redundant...

Don't get me wrong: I don't hate Snapchat as a medium. In fact, I think it's an ingenious business idea. People are cunts, 95% of the time, so if you give them an outlet with which to share their cuntishness, then you've invented something that 95% of the world's population will see as essential. Me being as big of a cunt as anyone else, I recently even sold out and downloaded Snapchat myself. And though I rarely find myself in a moment in life where I think, "D'you know what? My friends really need to see this exact moment for 10 seconds and no longer," it's become a useful way for me to keep in-touch my little sister and not get left out of conversations with my friends anymore as they brag about the giant ball of hilarity they've just unleashed upon Snapchat (generally one of them doing a funny face).

So no, my beef isn't with Evan Spiegel (Snapchat's co-creator and CEO). He didn't ruin Snapchat in the same sense that Mark Zuckerberg didn't ruin Facebook (though it appears he's trying to with decisions like this). It is, as usual, with what people have done with this perfectly fine creation, and how it's affected our day-to-day lives.

The Ironic Halloween Costume of the Year, 2006
Just as Bebo Stunnahs ruined what could have been good nights by insisting upon devoting them to pictures of themselves looking like they're having fun instead, a large subsection of Snapchat users now see fit to convolute moments of pretend 'fun-ness' to show their friends how truly zany and cray cray they are. Don't believe me? Well then I have a question for you...

Do you own a onesie?

The rise in popularity of the onesie is, to me, the smoking gun in the discussion over whether we don't understand what the meaning of the word 'fun' is anymore. I can safely say that, as much as I love a good set of pyjamas or slippers, that the simple act of wearing them has never solely caused my to have fun. Never has the thought, "I'm wearing pyjamas right now, this is GAS!" ever crossed my mind. Because it's not funny.

You should see their standup comedy sets: they say nothing and just wear onesies. Hashtag GAS!

Now taking that sleepwear and making it more childlike and inconvenient doesn't make the matter even a tiny bit more amusing. Unless you're laughing at how dense it was for someone who needs to take an immediate shit to choose the worst possible clothes designed for doing so.

Yet how many people do you know have previously posted pictures of themselves on Facebook or Snapchat dressed in onesies with the obvious point being, "Look at how MENTAL I am right now!" If you're in your teens or 20's, you know a lot don't you? Sleepwear is comfortable. It's refreshing to get into, particularly after a hard day. It's never fun or funny though.

In much the same sense, spotting a weird, ironic hat or jumper while you're out on your travels and paying someone money for it doesn't automatically give you a personality. Even if you make a funny face while you send a picture of it to your mates, which they can't view for longer than 10 seconds because doing so would make them realise how much of a full-on, cringey twat you're being right then.

The photographer had the right idea here.

And that's how Snapchat and its predecessors have ruined us. By playing into our vain delusion that every single thing we do or think is GAS or MAD, by creating a thing that tells us everyone will like you if you do this because that's what everyone likes, it's made us believe that we are actually GAS or MAD without going out and doing actual fun stuff. In the pitch to angel investors, it's quite possible that Evan Spiegel uttered the words, "It's like having fun...without actually having to have fun!"

Now here's the good news for the sane among us: it's all going to go away. All of these things do eventually. Maybe Facebook will still be around in 5+ years, but that's about it and only because Zuckerberg had the foresight to integrate Facebook into everything we did in our daily, technological lives while it was still hot. Snapchat's disposable nature makes it, unironically, disposable.

There was a great new app that came out a while back and had a massive influx of people signing up called Voxer. It may be gathering dust in your own apps right now. It served, basically, as a walkie-talkie style device which allowed you to leave short voicemails on your mates' phones, as you would a text message. I loved it. But Voxer quickly fell out of favour with the masses because people became bored with having to come up with new stuff to say and do. There are creative people out there who see opportunity in that void, but they are a tragic minority as most people just think, "Effort," and move on.

Snapchat removed that need for effort and thrived. Now people just had to slightly contort their face into weird positions to think they were making a funny. Yet in a vacuum where creativity is required, originality will flourish. In a medium where no creativity is required, things get old, fast. Why do you think the only people who still update their Facebook status daily are the people saying the exact same things they said four years ago? Why else do you think that 19-year old Justin Bieber is already mulling over the possibility of retirement?

Evan Spiegel has rightfully been painted as a visionary for seeing the potential in his creation, but I can't help but wonder if his vision was slightly skewed when he turned down Facebook's $3 billion offer. We got bored of duck-faces on Bebo, got bored of them on Facebook, why would we not get bored when they're all we get from Snapchat? The world tends to wake up one day and unanimously get bored of inventions like Bebo, Facebook and Voxer. They fall as quickly as they'd risen. One wonders if Spiegel will regret not taking his cheque when he wakes up one day and realises that, like ChatRoulette, all that is left on Snapchat are desperate, lonely lads who want to show people their cocks.

Rick Nash is a former pro-wrestler who currently DJs for hire, makes piss-poor sports bets and has a community radio show. Altogether, he's a real bum, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you thought this piece was in any way insightful or entertaining. But still, follow him on Twitter and stuff.

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