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What 20 year olds REALLY do on Snapchat (hint: NOT sexting)

Guest Post

By Raising Digital Natives Intern, (20 years old)

Since downloading the Snapchat app last fall, it’s become one of my go-to ways to communicate with the people in my life. I love it. I don’t care if my roommate is in the next room, if I want her to bring me something so I don’t have to get off the couch I’m going to send a picture of my best “please do me a favor” face with a caption such as “Please bring me my charger” or “Want to order me some sushi?” While my example makes me sound extremely lazy, Snapchat is a great way to keep in touch with my friends and family, sometimes even when they’re physically close to me.

Raising Digital Natives founder, Devorah Heitner, asked me to write about “the non-sexting uses of Snapchat.” Is that what adults think Snapchat is used for?

Is that what other people use it for? Well the thought had never occurred to me but I guess you could use Snapchat to “sext;” although I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s really easy to screenshot a Snap—meaning someone can keep it as a photo on their phone and do the usual damage—sharing it with others, posting it on the Internet or even using it as blackmail. As a journalism major who’s absolutely terrified of not having a job when I graduate, I am vigilant about protecting my online image. A future employer seeing anything online that makes me look less than employable is the stuff of my nightmares.

My uses for Snapchat are very quotidian–and light-hearted. I mainly use it to communicate with my friends and with my sister who lives on the other side of the country from me. Especially with my sister living so far away it feels a lot more personal to get a captioned photo than a simple text. The visual aspect gives me a better idea of what she’s been up to and in general makes me feel a lot closer to her.

I also use it to talk to my friends (i.e. asking my roommate for favors). I even have one friend who will only make plans via Snapchat. I would prefer a phone call but if I want to see her I need to send about 15 pictures of my face with the caption “So I’m meeting you at what time?” Every Snapchat I send is captioned. It’s a quick, easy way to have mini conversations. And sometimes it’s just fun to send unattractive selfies to my friends.

Snapchat may not be the most productive invention of the century, but for my friends, sister and I, it’s an easy, fun, visual way to keep in touch. Without it how would I know that my friend who’s studying abroad in Prague keeps seeing dogs inside cafés?

20 year old intern, Northwestern University

Here are a few recent snaps:

My roommate just saying hi (I may have been sitting next to her when this was sent…).

Positive media! Brilliant kid media-maker meets President at White House Science Fair

I am so glad to see Super Awesome Sylvia, getting some major press.
Everywhere I go, I recommend her show to parents and kids.

I met Sylvia and her Dad at DML 2012 and was so moved by their collaboration. It is so great to see a child and parent make media together this way. Imagine how much better kids media could be if more families made their own, awesome shows. Plus-just as doing science is a great way to understand science, making media enhances your understanding of how media works.  I’d much prefer to see kids creating media then only consuming it–and kids who create media can be much more sophisticated consumers and critics of media.
I love the Super Awesome Sylvia because:

a) Kids making media for other kids
b) Girl doing science
c) kids doing “dangerous” stuff and LEARNING
d) something from a screen that prompts viewers to do things in real life.
e) She makes the show w/ her dad.

Texting: How the Medium Shapes the Message

Derek Baird posted an insightful article on his Barking Robot blog titled:

Nancy Lublin: Social Media That Saves Lives

In her TED talk, Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something describes in harrowing detail how kids responded to her advocacy texts with serious and heartbreaking calls for help.

“I think it [texting]might be a lifeline.”

Reminds me of McLuhan’s oft repeated “Medium is the Message” Something about the intimacy, the silence and the immediacy of this medium  makes it possible for kids to be  so open that they would send desperate texts in response to a social advocacy campaign. Lublin responded to their cries for help, describing cutting, incest and other serious problems, by creating a text crisis hotline, which collects data about teen experiences, as well as responding with resources to teens’ individual issues. Lublin compares this to a census or a crime map that tracks issues such as date rape, or self-injury.

You can see Lublin’s talk here.

Positive Media! Mad scientist girl on YOUTUBE.

This blog post is about fascinating folks I encountered at the Digital Media and Learning Conference last weekend in SF.

I went to a great panel on “Democratizing Learning Innovation” that included innovator and Tinkering School guru Gever Tulley as well as Sylvia and her “tech ninja” dad, and some other folks…When I was a kid, my scientist dad and I did experiments, but this takes this practice to a whole new level. Both Tulley and Sylvia and her dad think making things/failing/trying/experimenting is a great way to learn things, and I have to agree! Check out Super Awesome Sylvia’s amazing channel. I love her energy, and I love the fact that she is encouraging kids to try complex tinkering and science. I love that she’s a girl doing the mad-scientist thing…

The combination of old school science and new school dissemination on youtube is a delightful pairing. As Gever pointed out, we often treat kids as if they are incompetent and need protection. While as a mom of a three year old, I recognize that there is SOME need for protection, I can also see that my kid can already do much more than I let him, and with encouragement, can really innovate. I look forward to trying some of Tulley’s 50 Dangerous things you should let your kid do…Once little guy is just a bit bigger. Keep on being Super Awesome, Slyvia!