The popular app Snapchat sure has gone through a tough time to establish itself in pop culture. I’m not gonna go on to talk about it’s reputation, or what I use it for (no don’t even let your mind go there), but rather an odd feature that got introduced a while back that at first I was skeptical of, then slowly realized the potential of. To fully get what I’m going to write about, you need a little bit of education about Snapchat if you haven’t used the platform before. Sure you can send messages to people back and forth that disappear forever in 10 seconds or less, but you can also add pictures and videos to a personal Story which anyone whom you have added on Snapchat can see an unlimited amount of times. Stories get reset every 24 hours.
Around Thanksgiving last year, I (along with all the other 100 million users) got a video from Snapchat’s HQ account “Team Snapchat” introducing “Snapchat Live”. Live was a way for multiple Snapchatters partaking in one particular event to add pictures and videos to a single Story that everyone using Snapchat could see. Except the rollout was not exactly clear, and to me the whole thing seemed like a one-off coverage of a EDM (Electronic Dance Music) festival in Orlando called EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival). Some people tolerated it, others disliked it as Live had a nasty habit of sticking itself at the top of your Story List that you could not move it from. Time and EDC came and went, and the Live feed disappeared from my app. All was forgotten. To me, it seemed like a failed experiment that really had no place in the personal messaging environment of Snapchat.
Until the later matches of the World Cup. Live came back with a fierceness, with 10-20 people adding snapchats to one single World Cup Story. It was basically insanity, but it gave a viewpoint of the World Cup and the festivities around it that I would not have gotten unless I was there.
And that’s when I realized that this “failed experiment” was actually one of the most innovative things that solves the very simple question “what would it be like if I was there?”. I started paying more attention to the Live stories and what they covered. Music festivals, College Gameday, even Derek Jeter’s last home game had a Live feed, all shot from a spectator point of view. This is what the average Snapchat user would probably be seeing if they were at these events, and to me that’s fascinating. Snapchat has taken their social messaging platform and turned it into a social discovery platform without making me download another app or click any buttons, and honestly I’m okay with that. Sure the Live feeds stay at the top of my story lists, and sure they don’t have solid, steady video of a big music set or a football game, but the human aspect of the whole experience really drives it all home for me.
So, as Live matures and branches out, I find that the “if I was there” question to be answered more and more by “Hey, check Snapchat, they just put up another Live Story.” So for that, for taking a few bits and pieces of a few certain events I would not have any opportunity of going to, and putting them on my phone screen for me to watch in my home, I thank Snapchat. I hope the next one is just as cool as the last.