Snapchat was released in 2011 and its clean and simple design quickly sparked a new form of digital communication through sending and receiving photos. Unfortunately, as its user-base increased, so did the number of updates that added unwanted features; each moving Snapchat further from its original purpose and slowly transforming it into the money-hungry social media platform it is today.
One of the worst additions to Snapchat is the Discover page. In order to start making money, Snapchat designated a space on the app for any publisher to start uploading content. Unfortunately, to succeed on the Discover page, many publishers have resorted to using sensational titles and clickbait to catch the attention of the app’s young user base. Flashy articles seem to do well which contributes to a plethora of media surrounding sex, alcohol, drugs, gossip and drama.
The Snapchat demographic is young, with 13 to 17-year-olds making up 69% of its user base. It’s most likely that little to none of these teenage users understand that their data is being collected and sold to advertisers and media companies in order to advance their own personalized algorithms. It seems obvious that it’s wrong to take advantage of a highly impressionable teenage audience, but Snapchat developers appear to be blinded by the prospect of money. The abundance of mindless “so satisfying” compilations, “life hacks” and all the other useless content littered across the Discover page make it evident that Snapchat aims to trap the attention of young users solely to feed them as many ads as possible.
With such a large platform, Snapchat should recognize and take advantage of its influence to make a positive impact on the young generation. The developers should work toward cleansing the Discover page of all the junk and promote informed content created by credible media outlets.
There are a few positive platforms in the mix that have gained a large following, proving that it’s possible for the app to become both ethical and lucrative. One such platform, Born Different, publishes informative articles about individuals living with and embracing some disability or condition that they've been diagnosed with. The unfortunate thing is that articles like these appear adjacent to ones glorifying cosmetic plastic surgery.
Today's teens would greatly benefit from a switch to factual and informative media. Gen Z is the first to grow up with a constant online presence and the youngest of which likely have little experience with discerning between facts and fiction posed as facts. The responsibility falls on media ownership to protect young demographics. Legislation enforcing restrictions placed on older media like radio or television that made them safe for children has yet to be carried across to the new world of social media. Because online media is praised for its boundlessness, it’s easy to lose sight of how the lack of constraints is affecting young users.
Snapchat should do what’s right and reinvent its Discover page. At the very least, the app could introduce filters that allow certain content to be restricted. It’s important that we care for the kids growing up on social media today and strive to protect them from potentially harmful exposure to inappropriate material.
Rachel Gordon is a freshman media arts and design major. Contact Rachel at email@example.com