When Snapchat turned one on Sept. 26, 2012, the company reaffirmed its position on the value of “ephemeral” content — those moments that are meant to be “shared, enjoyed but not saved.” Yet this month, on its same blog, Snapchat introduced its Memories feature as “a big change” to its service because it’s all about saving snaps. Despite a shift in what’s been a fundamental core value of its platform, this a smart move by Snapchat. And it’s a really big deal.
Years ago, I first heard (and very much liked) the comparison of ancient cave-wall paintings as the first form of social media. In the most basic sense, this parietal art is essentially “posted” content meant to be seen and shared by others. The paintings are a form of self-expression and storytelling that in some cases have endured for over 30,000 years — just the opposite of a six-second expiration countdown.
It’s pretty easy to remember big moments in our lives — those major events and milestones that serve as markers along our journey through time. Yet, it’s the candid little moments we experience daily that have been shown to fuel our happiness — although they come and go and eventually fade away. When I was in high school, I always carried around a micro-cassette recorder to capture random conversations with my friends. We’d listen back and laugh hysterically about what we all said. There was something so innocent and magical about it.
On the Fourth of July, The Wall Street Journal reported that “the ‘olds’ are arriving in force” on Snapchat. Admittedly, I am one of them. I’ve been actively using Snapchat since 2014, perhaps as my modern-day micro-cassette recorder. In its very first blog post (over four years ago), Snapchat said its app “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.” But unlike the micro-cassette tapes that I still have today, Snapchat has had no native way of preserving moments that deserve a chance for more than a 24-hour lifespan.
Enter Snapchat Memories. This new feature allows the snaps you want to keep for more than a day to be saved forever as part of its core app experience — and they can be re-shared and even updated (with new filters, stickers, captions, etc.) over and over again. And that’s why Snapchat Memories is a big shift for the company, its users, and brands towards a much greater focus on nostalgia.
This November, I’ll be attending my 25-year high school reunion. I will likely be one of the only 40-somethings using Snapchat to capture (and now preserve) an imperfect stream of moments with my hometown friends. Years from now, we’ll look back and laugh while scrolling through the memories we made that day. Plain and simple: content shouldn’t ever be forced to disappear. Snapchat’s shift to more permanency is a signal that the days of “disposable” are as numbered as an expiring snap — and this changes the game.