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By Hiba Ahmed, Center for Public and Global Affairs Intern
July 22, 2015
My younger, teen sister enjoys viewing the raw, current world from the convenience of her phone, and who can blame her? Thanks to SnapChat I can open the application and have footage from featured countries in the palm of my hand, literally.
Snapchat, for those not in tune with those tech-savvy teenagers, is a video and photo messaging application that allows users to take photos, record videos, add text, and then send them to a those added in a personal contact list. Here is the catch: users set how long the recipient may view these images up to ten seconds. Then, unless screenshotted, the image will be deleted from the view of the recipient.
Started as a project at Stanford University, Snapchat launched in 2011. Through its evolution, Snapchat offers stories. Stories allow for users to create a narrative of images, videos, and texts that can be viewable publically or the contact list of a user. Live Stories, stories that allow users who are a specific location to add to the same Story, are viewed internationally. At this moment, the featured international Stories on my SnapChat are Milan and Manama.
Unlock phone, open up the SnapChat, swipe left, click a live Story, enjoy. When I open the Milan Story, I see candid shots of the city, including shots of individuals eating gelato, kids playing in fountains, and others stuck in traffic. Real images of real people. The founders of Snapchat state this in a blog post dated on May 9th, 2012: “Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion – not just what appears to be pretty or perfect”.
Definitely kodak and natural, these stories give users a snapshot of international communities and cultures around the world. Snapchat is simply no longer a means of communication, instead the application now offers glimpses into the lives, cultures, and interactions of others – all within seconds of videos and photos.
Mecca, the Islamic holy city in Mecca, was also featured near the end of Ramadan, allowing individuals around the world an exclusive look at the festivities in the religiously significant city. For many, the natural, candid view of Mecca was refreshing compared to the usual negativity associated with Muslims in the news.
Small and simple, Snapchat devised a way in which connection around the world became easy and viewing the lifestyle of another became the new trend. In a globalized society, even the international community can be accessed through some swipes and clicks by fingertips.