Just as teen boredom couldn’t predict Facebook’s demise, teen excitement can’t predict Snapchat’s success
By now you’ve probably heard that teens like the update Snapchat released yesterday. One teacher’s experience with the update has been written up in Business Insider, the Verge, and New York magazine. The update is responsible for her decision to confiscate students’ phones for the first time in her career, thanks largely to one girl, who crawled under a table to use it.
That’s fine. Students could be crawling under tables for far worse reasons, and I’m sure that Snapchat is pleased to know that teenagers are using its app for something besides swapping images of their pubescent bodies. But focusing on teenagers’ infatuation with the service is just as damaging as focusing on its former status as a congenial genital-swapping application. (Or, at least, a tool for trading pictures of political ding-dongs and other nude pictures.)
Remember when people thought Facebook was screwed because teens weren’t using it often? You should — those claims started over a year ago, and pundits have been steadily pounding that drum ever since. The idea is that Facebook is going to have to change its service to keep teens interested because they’re the future of computing, which is only slightly less terrifying than the idea that millennials are going to destroy the planet with laziness and bad pop music.
Facebook itself started marching to that beat with admissions that teen users were starting to use other services. But has that doomed the service to obsolescence, or at least a revival led by people like Justin Timberlake, who has tried to make the now-abandoned Myspace cool again? The short answer is no. The long answer is no. It doesn’t seem like a real threat.
There are more people using Facebook’s mobile products — over 1 billion people use them each month, according to its most recent financial report — than EVER before. It’s making multi-billion dollar acquisitions and introducing new products. This is the year of Facebook, as Wired’s Mat Honan puts it, and the threat of fickle teens experimenting with other services is in the past.
Just as teens’ boredom couldn’t predict Facebook’s downfall, their excitement can’t predict Snapchat’s success. If people committed to everything they enjoyed as teenagers we’d be surrounded by people who only know the lyrics to Nickelback songs and believe that all the world’s problems will be solved when pot is finally legalized. Luckily, that just isn’t the case.
Snapchat isn’t just about teens. It’s not just about sexting. Do that market, and that use-case, help the service? Absolutely. Everything has to start somewhere. But if Snapchat is going to be taken seriously as a communications tool that allows couples and friends and everyone else to stay in touch better than they otherwise could, it’s time to stop fixating on its reliance on both.