Snapchat: Another blow for face-to-face communication?

In a world that is ever more technology based, it is of little surprise just how quickly the Snapchat fad has taken off.  A handy app for smartphones, Snapchat allows users to record both still shots and videos that can be sent to friends and viewed for only a sender-specified period of time (often a few seconds). Funny faces, beautiful scenery, loving messages, and more may all be revealed when the friendly little ghost icon appears to notify you that you have received a Snapchat message from a friend. And then, poof, just as instantly as it arrived, the image is gone.

But just how groundbreaking is Snapchat in advancing our communication abilities? I myself have fallen prey to the Snapchat phenomenon and the amusement that it provides. And I, like so many others, enjoy both sending and receiving messages to friends both near and far away. It is always a pleasant surprise when I unlock my phone to be greeted by the Snapchat ghost and moments later by the familiar face of a friend I miss; to be kept up to date with the lives of others via the images that they are seeing.

I once overheard an explanation for why Snapchat is so loved: “It can make even the most beautiful people look ugly, if only for a second.” While the sentiment is amusing, I believe that technology such as Snapchat is too often relied upon as a source of entertainment. It is fine to use Snapchat when separated from the people with whom you wish to communicate, but once Snapchat becomes a tool for communication in a social setting, it is no longer appropriate. Of course, this problem is not limited to Snapchat alone. Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter and texting all take away from the intimacy of face-to-face communication during interpersonal interactions. When a conversation partner is paying more attention to their cell phone than to what you have to say, it can be both frustrating and demeaning. Although Snapchat can be enjoyable, it is simply an additive to this trend; another step away from positive communication skills.

What has happened to the days of lengthy phone calls, meaningful conversations and personalized letters? Why is it that we would rather send a text than listen to an active and responsive voice at the other end of the line? It is important that we regain a sense of presence in our communication styles, that we avoid becoming the translucent ghost that Snapchat encourages us to be.