Why It’s Postmodern [2]:

Snapchat is a relatively new (2011) social networking video-messaging application, used by (originally) iPhone and other smartphone owners. Typically, this app was used to send pictures of videos to friends and acquaintances. These can be viewed for a determined number of seconds (1 to 10), and users can either use filters to modify their pictures’ aspects, either draw on their pictures using a drawing tool (kind of like a bricolage). The options have now become extended. One may post a picture or a video for their contacts to see (lasting for a period of 24 hours), and check out others’ stories themselves, whether others’ comprises their own contacts or sponsors that also put their own stories up for all registered users to see. Once again, this shows the extent to which interactive media has come to predominate in postmodernity, and the innovative skill with which it did.

In apps such as this one, high and low culture can easily mix, in that people of all social backgrounds may use this app if they can afford a smartphone and are in fact desirous of interacting with people in this manner. Nowadays, the paradox is that someone may live in a deteriorated apartment, drive a decrepit car and wear shabby clothes, but organize their budget in such a way that allows their purchase and maintenance of the hottest new smartphone. This may happen just as other may be entirely well off and decide to use a nokia phone. In this manner, owning expensive and valuable things (as was usually perceived to be a characteristic of the higher classes) can nowadays be regarded as a feeble way of classifying true wealth. This again accounts for consumerism – people buy items they want to be associated with, and are not limited to what is supposedly dictated by their social class (in fact, the concept of social class is become gradually imprecise and inaccurate in defining a person in postmodern times). This blurring of boundaries (consequently, the merging of social classes) is argued by sociologist Strinati to be one of the main ways of distinguishing our times from modern ones.

Another dimension of the postmodernism displayed in this application lies in its parodic aspect. During holidays (be it unofficial – Halloween, or official – Christmas), new filters appear, which can represent the holiday period (e.g. a dynamic filter of a zombie face or a static Santa hat). In this manner, one may make fun of oneself by adopting certain filters if desired, and even display festivity to potentially appeal to others. This also constitutes aspects of simulation. By drawing a Santa Hat on a picture of our own face using the drawing tool, we are adopting a simulacrum of Santa Claus. We are representing an already existing representation of a completely fictional character that was popularized by Coca Cola.

Playing upon this idea of reality, one may also argue (as Strinati did), that by using this app, people are constructing their own reality, rather than accurately representing it. Our hyperconsciousness pertaining to the possibility offered to us in representing ourselves often lead us to cling to our best features and most pleasurable leisure activities (not necessarily the most common ones in our lives) when deciding what to publicise. This means that we tend to meticulously choose what we show others, in this manner constructing our reality in their eyes. For instance, if a fitness model only posts pictures of her diet and workouts on her Instagram account, we may be led to erroneously assume that her life revolves around such activities that may in fact only take up a minimal amount of her time. It is this possibility to hide our true self while projecting who we want to be that is so commonplace in postmodernity. This is made possible by the many quick and easy technologies offered to us (e.g. smartphones, tablets, touchscreen DSLRs, etc.).

Therefore, by offering us the opportunity to create a process of reality construction in media and social interaction, Snapchat can be classified as a postmodern medium of communication.


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