R.I.P. to Best Friends

On Snapchat, a popular photo and video sharing app, users can “snap” a photo or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend. But on the app’s most recent update, Snapchat removed its most overused but underrated feature. (Hint: It has nothing to do with photo or video sharing.)

Snapchat users may no longer view their contacts’ lists of “best friends.”

What is a “best friend” on Snapchat, you might ask? A “best friend” is one of three friends on a list that is made up of the people you Snapchat the most. It seems like a useless piece of information to have – who cares who your friends are frequently Snapchatting?

Everyone.

As an avid Snapchat user, I must admit that I used the feature on a daily basis and I already miss it dearly. My friends and I would look at other friends’ best friend lists just to see who was talking to who. Here’s why that information is useful: If a friend swore up and down that she was no longer talking to her ex-boyfriend, but her number one Snapchat best friend was her ex-boyfriend, we knew she was lying. Another example: If a friend’s boyfriend told her he didn’t communicate with his ex-girlfriend anymore, but that ex-girlfriend made an appearance on his best friend list, we knew he was lying. See how that works?

I’m not saying we should be able to find this information – in fact, I totally admit that it’s creepy. But we were given the ability, and humans are curious creatures.


Various news sources (I use the term “news” lightly) have already published stories about the new update. E!News released a piece called “Snapchat’s New Update Apparently Means Cheaters Can Run Wild.” (A little dramatic.) Buzzfeed published an article called “Here’s What Teens Think About Snapchat’s Latest Feature Update” that included an entertaining list of real tweets on the issue. A few of my favorites:

“so mad that they have got rid of bestfriends of snapchat.. when im talking to a hot boy i want my friends to know”

“I honestly hate snapchat I liked the simple way to stalk people and see their best friends 😂😂”

And my personal favorite, possibly appealing to more young adults than teens, from a user off of my own Twitter feed:

“Remember when we thought the new apple software would tell someone if we screenshotted texts? This is much worse.


The good news is that this update is probably going to be beneficial to every Snapchat user’s mental health. But if you’re still mourning the loss of your favorite stalking tool, keep your head up. Snapchat’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, said the best friend feature will be back soon.

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.19.01 PM

Digital Divides Aren’t Far-Fetched

In the article “What will digital life look like in 2025?” Anita Salem said “people who live in the highest bandwidth communities could have the pleasure of interacting with each other through holograms and taking virtual tours of the most compelling parts of the planet.” Upon reading this, my first thought was “hmm… that could create a huge class divide.” My fear was confirmed in the next section of the article that said “the problems of a digital divide could worsen.”

The truth is, I knew my fear wasn’t far fetched because technology creates a huge digital divide already. Being surrounded by college students with iPhones and other smart devices, I forget that plenty of people in the US can’t afford technology like this. Where I’ve been connected to apps like Twitter for years, I know people from home (Jacksonville, NC) who just got an account last year because they just got an iPhone last year. This reminds me of the article we discussed last week in class that came from a teenager’s perspective on social media. The writer of the article was looking at social media through an extremely narrow scope- one of a privileged college student.

As technology continues to create opportunities for those who can afford them, it also continues to create a new standard that not everyone can reach. Artificial intelligence and robots are great concepts, but the fact is that most people won’t be able to afford these systems. Some people in the world still aren’t connected to Internet. If digital operating systems are “integrated” into the human body by 2025, as Salem predicted, how will this allow for human relations between tech-connected humans and humans who don’t even have a wifi signal?

It’s also concerning to think of the advantages some people will have over others. Money, location, connections and (natural) intelligence divide people today. But if some people are integrated with digital operating systems and using artificial intelligence, this would create an even further divide, a digital divide, that could be much worse than an old-fashioned class divide.

Crossing the Line in Advertising

Facebook has a way of shocking its users with creepy advertisements. Whether it’s a t-shirt with your name on it, a dress you considered ordering that morning, or a textbook you looked up the previous day, the ad is sure to be invasive. This doesn’t bother me. In fact, through discussions with my friends about targeted ads, they don’t seem to bother many people.

But an advertisement I saw recently on Facebook struck me as too invasive.

Imagine that you sign on to Facebook and see a photo of two girls with text overlapping it that says “I’m hooking up with my sorority sister.” Now imagine that the caption for the ad says “The UNC group on Whisper is crazy af.” NOW imagine that the picture is kind of familiar… a girl on the dance team and a girl on the cheer team… and they are holding up a sorority hand sign.

This picture was of two girls who are students at UNC, and I had seen it before because I have mutual friends with the girls in the picture. I spoke to one of my friends on the cheer team, and she texted one of the girls in the picture. Not surprisingly, the girl had no idea her picture was being used on an advertisement that said “I’m hooking up with my sorority sister.”

I’m not sure about the legalities of using someone else’s photo for an ad. I imagine the photo was not copyrighted, or the person who took the photo has no idea that the photo is being used. What I do know is that this crosses all kinds of ethical lines. A company shouldn’t use real photos for an advertisement, especially when they didn’t pay or inform the people in the photos the photo conveys a derogatory message about the people in the photo. This ad didn’t make me want to download the application being advertised, and it didn’t spark my interest about it either.

Social Media on Script

It’s funny how often we hear about social media on TV shows and movies. We are so used to hearing about it that we don’t think twice when a character references Facebook or Instagram – these social networks play such a huge role in our lives that they come up in most of our real-life conversations. Being in two Internet-focused classes, I’ve started to pay more attention to these references.

I watch a lot of Friends on Netflix. (I’m convinced it’s going to kill my GPA this semester.) In each episode, there is at most one or two references about the landline phone. I don’t think about the absence of technology when I watch the show, except for the occasional “I wish she could text him on his cell” thought when, say, Rachel wanted to stop Ross from getting on his plane to China.

But when I watch a show that was produced in the past 2-3 years, it’s different. The actors are always holding cell phones. There is normally a statement or joke about Facebook. It really hit me today how influential social networking was on television shows when I watched the newest Saturday Night Live episode. In the opening skit, a young boy had a conversation with Martin Luther King, Jr. about modern-day protests. The boy told MLK, Jr. that if he wanted to protest, all he had to do was get on Twitter and write “#weareFerguson.” MLK, Jr., played by Kenan Thompson, looked dumbfounded to find that people pressed on a screen to do what people risked their lives to accomplish 50 years ago.

The next skit on SNL was about Instagram. It was literally titled “Why’d You Post That?”. The skit showed a slideshow of stupid posts made by Instagram users that we all could compare to people we follow. (Of course, if my parents watched the skit, they probably wouldn’t understand the joke.)

It’s a subtle influence that social media has on the world, mostly because people growing up in this generation are used to seeing social media everywhere. But to watch the show as a parent, it’s probably a completely different experience. Even as a student learning about the influence of Internet on society, I notice the drastic changes in subjects of TV episodes and parodies. It will be interesting to watch a show like Friends or old SNL episodes ten years from now.