Look at just about any college-aged kid’s Facebook pictures and you’ll immediately understand the Onion article, “Every 2040 Presidential Candidate Unelectable Due to Facebook.” Be it a drunk picture or an ugly picture, a stupid Facebook status or a misspelled Twitter update, everyone has something embarrassing linked to their online identity.
Some try to make their Facebook profile inaccessible to outsiders, and some kids make sure their parents cannot see their pictures (as to spare them of the thought that their teenager drinks at school). But when you have hundreds of Facebook friends, most of whom you do not regularly think about, you often forget exactly who will see what you post. There is always that aunt that you forgot to block from seeing your pictures after she friended you four years ago who now creeps on you and emails incriminating pictures of you to your blocked parents.
There is a strange duality in social media that is near impossible to upkeep: on one hand, you want potential friends to look at your profile and think you are spontaneous and fun. But you want potential employers to see it and think you are responsible and hardworking. In the case of Facebook, the latter is often sacrificed for the sake of the former. So when applying to college or a job, you just change your Facebook name (linked to your awesome profile) to something totally unsearchable, but crafty and funny enough to still garner respect from your peers.
Social media caters towards our need to attention-whore. In the moment, it all seems like a great idea to post it so the world can see. But somehow, when I look back on all of my Facebook statuses from 2008, I wonder how I could have constantly been such an idiot. Seriously, why would you publicly post that you had a crush on Liz So in freshman year if you wanted that to go anywhere?
We’ve been so obsessed with how new our technology is that we sometimes forget how creepy it is (think Find My Friends app). There’s a constant evolutionary battle between technologies that let us creep and ones that secure our privacy. For one reason or another, creepy technologies seem to have the upper hand.
Enter the new advancement on the privacy side, the proclaimed messiah of sexing, Snapchat. The app allows you to send picture messages to friends for a specified amount of time – somewhere between 1 and 10 seconds. According to the website, “snaps disappear after the timer runs out.” If the person you send the “snap” to takes a screenshot, you are supposed to be immediately notified.
Can Anthony Weiner finally sext without the entire world having to see him flex?
Some of the details are still shaky: what is meant by “disappear” is never specified. You may be notified of a screenshot, but it still exists on the other person’s phone and can later be sent around. You could take a photo of the screen with a separate camera. Still, it is still a better, more secure, alternative to sending a picture message.
A “snap” need not be a nude picture; my roommate recently sent me a picture of his bowel movement. Snapchat is used to #embracetheugly. Users will often take ugly selfies to show how they’re feeling — maybe a tortured Edvard Munch “The Scream” face to express their boredom. The privacy settings of Snapchat are effective enough that people are willing to let their friends briefly view embarrassingly unattractive pictures for laughs.
As Snapchat has gained in popularity, a trend is emerging. Instead of embracing the extra security, people appear to be more interested in how to take away other’s privacy than how they could be retaining their own. Snapchat seems to be inviting people to attempt to circumvent another’s privacy.
How does Snapchat know if you’ve taken a screenshot? How can you get around the company notifying the person? Already, there exist sites explaining in detail the steps necessary to circumvent this privacy measure.
Snapchat cannot monitor whether you take a screenshot. Instead, it checks if you press the buttons for a screenshot – home and power – while in using program. After jailbreaking a phone, you can change the screenshot buttons such that you will no longer be pressing home and power simultaneously. Thus Snapchat never registers you as having taken a screenshot. Or, if you’re not as tech savvy, you can download an app that takes a screenshot when you shake the phone vigorously.
What does Snapchat represent? Snapchat seems to be a step in a new direction: an attempt to protect our online identities from constant future privacy breechings. “The idea, really, is that the images expiring means that you can be really silly, really funny, really ugly,” Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat says. “And that’s a really powerful and exciting thing — especially my generation, who grew up with everything they’ve ever done retweeted, liked or forwarded all over the Internet.” Spiegel is right here. Facebook applications are known for selling user data. Public tweets were recently deemed to have no “reasonable expectation of privacy.” This remains a theme throughout: we have very little privacy in most social media outlets. That concept has always been disconcerting, but for some reason, it is not enough to stop people from using them.
In Snapchat’s creation exists a recognition that people want privacy that they otherwise cannot have on the internet. However, when you type “snapchat” into Google, one of the first autofill options is “snapchat screenshot hack.” Maybe we’ve gotten so used to the lack of privacy that we no longer respect other people’s right to it.