Snapchat is very much of its time. It is exclusively mobile-based, which even a few years ago would have seemed a disadvantage, and can make even Facebook and Twitter seem comparatively old. Whether it's a fad or not, it has all the intensity of one, and in order to keep up with technology that is consistently advancing, it is constantly changing and reinventing itself, for fear of being another social media platform left behind.
However, SnapChat's latest feature has caused a bit of a stir. In attempting to move forward once more, they have both impressing younger users and scaring parents in equal measure. Their new innovation has been likened to the Marauder's map from Harry Potter, and the map of New York in Gossip girl, because basically, it's a map that tells you where other people - or at least active SnapChat friends of yours - currently are.
What is it?
Snap Map allows you to open up a map that will show you where your friends who are active on SnapChat are located. The map, which you can zoom in or out of, will show where friends were when they were last active on the App, while if there’s a major event or breaking news taking place that lots of people are documenting on Snapchat, a patch of colour will appear on the map identifying the hotspot.
The App gives you the option to share your location, either with all the friends on your list, a select group of friends, or nobody, by selecting ‘ghost mode’.
The map also incorporates 'actionmojis', a new type of personalized avatar, such as a car or an aeroplane, that automatically appears, showing the user’s location, time of day or speed of travel. The actionmojis appear on the map when a user shares their location and disappear when they’ve been offline for several hours.
How to use it...
Make sure your app is up to date. On the camera page, pinch the screen as if you were trying to zoom out. This should bring up the map, where you’ll see any of your friends who have enabled the feature. You can zoom out wide enough to see your friends around Ireland and beyond, or zoom in to see exactly what street their on.
You’ll be given the option to share your location, either with all the friends on your list, a select group of friends, or nobody, by selecting ‘ghost mode’.
Is it safe?
This has been a common question over the last few days, even though it can sound like a major overreaction. SnapChat's branding certainly offers an appealing angle, saying: 'We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!'
But this feature will still raise concern for parents, because it allows people to search for places, including areas like schools, and see the pictures and videos posted by people there.
Perhaps the most import point then is the fact that SnapChat have stressed this location sharing is an opt-in feature. The App comes with the option of a ghost mode for this feature, and while parents will still fear that they can’t control whether or not their children use it, it does still mean that users are in control of whether or not their profile is public.
Will it change how people use SnapChat?
As well as the security of the Ghost Mode, it’s also impossible to share your location with someone you’re not already friends with. This could change how people use SnapChat as while in the past people may have been relaxed when it came to accepting people as friends, even if they didn't know them, they may now be more mindful of the issue.
Snapchat has changed a lot over the years as its original selling points have become less unique, and it's always the way that changes and innovations will annoy some people.
It should be remembered however that this isn't anything all that new when it comes to social media. The idea of a map makes it seem on the surface slightly less voluntary and more intrusive, but people have been deliberately ‘checking in’ to exact locations on Facebook for years. Twitter too allows people to add locations to tweets.
Snapchat has changed a lot over the years as its original selling points have become less unique, and it's always the way that changes and innovations will annoy some people. Having originally been more of a private messaging service – not all that different to having someone’s phone number, or knowing that your phone number is available to others - it's now something that can highlight and advertise your very whereabouts. People will decide for themselves how they use this feature, but considering the constant changes that occur across social media platforms, whether it's quickly forgotten, or soon becomes common place, SnapChat Maps is unlikely to cause controversy for too long.