Snapchat and Instagram

Above: The logos of Snapchat and Instagram. Montage: Oscopic.

Dual-Channel Teens

Teens today are dual-channel. In the late-1980s, teens were dubbed dual-channel for their interest in only two TV channels CNN and MTV. Today, teens can again be dubbed dual-channel, this time the two channels are apps: Instagram and Snapchat.

Introducing Snapchat in 2012, Forbes journalist J.J. Colao said:

Human quirks have been lost in the rarefied air of social media, replaced by self-conscious, superhuman wits who trade in 'envy me' scenes--sunsets and vacations, impossibly fun parties, and gourmet dinners. Spontaneity, now punishable by career ruin, has been abandoned. Instead, everyone is busy curating a perfected online image. Snapchat then, is an effort to bring that fun back into the digital world. Users can take the ugliest, silliest, most compromising photos they want, usually in the form of a selfie. After sending them to friends, those photos then disappear, forever, in 1-10 seconds. It's private, instant and fleeting, more an extension of texting than a social network rival to Instagram.

As Evan Spiegel, creator of the Snapchat app explained, also in 2012: "People are living with this massive burden of managing a digital version of themselves. It's taken all of the fun out of communicating. The main reason that people use Snapchat is that the content is so much better. It's funny to see your friend when they just woke up in the morning."

So, teens today do have the pressure of managing their perfected online social-media identity, yes, but they also have a back-channel by which they can intentionally expose their fails, bloopers, bed-head hair, and the like--and so relieve the ever-present pressure-to-perform. The youth of today (in the Developed West at least) thus represent themselves in two distinct ways on social media: a sanitized, glamourized version of themselves on Insta, and a humanized, guileless version on Snapchat.

(31 August 2018)