To the 310 million monthly active Snapchat users, many of whom are in their teens and early 20s: Sorry, but old people are about to crash your party. (I’m not even 40, and I’m one of them.)
To the hip kids who have grown up with the four-year-old short video sharing app: It is with regrets that admittedly I may even incorrectly explain some of how this service-with its myriad of odd features-works. (What do you care? You’re young and you know everything already. Why are you even here?) And finally, to the adults reading this to discover what they’ve been missing: Apologies, but Snapchat will show you things-like what you’d look like as a glasses-wearing chihuahua-that you’ll never unsee.
And that is exactly why the app is exploding in use, even recently overtaking Twitter in terms of daily users. A social network where people share photos and short videos for just 24 hours, Snapchat is the answer to the Internet’s problem of never forgetting. And with a rotating set of fun features and filters, it’s also the response to Facebook and Twitter’s stale experiences.
As with any social network, much of your Snapchat experience will depend on who you follow, but on this one you’re less likely to find carefully composed posts. Instead, Snapchat all about spontaneity and documenting things “in the now.” Or, as the company’s founder Evan Spiegel puts it, “instant expression.”
When opening Snapchat, forget the infinite scroll of the social networks you’re used to, because this app immediately springboards the camera to the screen. The philosophy behind this unconventional landing place is that chats all begin with the conversation, and in Snapchat, images do the talking.
These filters aren’t obvious, but they’re a great way to give life to your boring adult snaps
That makes even more sense when you think of how the app treats its photos and videos ephemerally. Just as spoken words only hang in the air long enough for ears to hear them, these images last just long enough to be seen (or more accurately, for 24 hours) and then they disappear.
Navigating the app also works a little differently here. Instead of left- or right-hand anchored menus, Snapchat has users swipe to access other elements of the service. For instance, from the camera, swipe to the right and the chat screen will appear, swipe down and your account preferences will drop in, and swipe left to view other users’ snaps. (You can also swipe left one more time for the “Discover” screen, which displays stories by media entities like ESPN, CNN, and People, also a Time Inc. publication.) Sure, there are also buttons you can press to reach these screens (the bottom-left square for your chats, the top-center ghost for your account, and the bottom-right hamburger menu for your stories), but kids these days swipe their Snapchat like it’s Tinder-another app you’re probably too old to be using.
Snapchat’s camera works a little differently than the default Android or iOS camera app, so it’s worth walking through. For instance, if you tap on the shutter button it will take a photo, but if you hold down on it, Snapchat will record video.
Hidden from plain view, you have to know how to access them to use them
At the top right of the camera screen, there’s a button for toggling between the rear and front-facing camera, and at the top left there’s a control for the flash.
Snapchat’s camera filters are the app’s secret weapon. Take an image, then swipe left or right while on the camera screen and you’ll see a filter slide over across it. There are even some cool geo-located filters based on where you are, whether it’s in a city or at an event. (Custom-made geo-filters for festivities like weddings are all the rage these days.)