“You had something to hide
Should have hidden it, shouldn’t you
Now you’re not satisfied
With what you’re being put through”
– Policy of Truth, Depeche Mode
Nico Sell, the founder and CEO of secure messaging app Wickr once stated that we’ve entered the “Summer of Snowden”, obviously referencing the growing trend of consumers using private sharing and ephemeral content applications. While the comment clearly has political undertones, the “message” is clear – users are seeking more and more control over their digital and social selves.
Whether they’re scared of the NSA, worried that mom and dad will see the not-so-appropriate selfie from their girlfriend/boyfriend or simply looking to preempt the eventual regret that sometimes comes from too much social sharing, selectively minimizing one’s digital footprint has become de rigueur in today’s social media world.
So what is it that is shifting social media from being the platform of free self-expression to one of semi-fear and partial loathing? Honestly it could be a myriad of things, but I think it is simply that users just want a platform that allows them to be themselves, to be silly, to have fun (or be serious) without the risk of someone or some platform remembering every digital detail and potentially vomiting it at random, inappropriate or unwanted moments – what I call the “Social Rain Man Syndrome”.
The Rise of Ephemerality
We see it daily in People Magazine, Us Weekly or random tabloids. Once off the stage or screen, actors and actresses (for the most part) constantly seek privacy – a place where they no longer have to perform or “put on a show”.
Today’s consumers are no different. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have created a stage where we can mold, shape, re-shape, tweak, twerk and shout-out our public character and the moments that emphasize this persona (imagined or not). But we’ve quickly learned that some moments are simply not meant to be shared or at least in such a public and perpetual manner as we had previously.
If Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are the stage, then apps like Snapchat and Confide are the new digital oasis. Places that move us from being public performers, to just being our true selves. These apps and others like them have the ability to remove the “documentary pressure” of the web and turn it back into a regular method of conversation – one that is unavailable for third parties to hear, dissect or disseminate. A place where we can share without scrutiny. A place to walk between the raindrops as they say.
A lofty goal for sure.
Yet Snapchat’s recent problems with screen captures and content remaining on servers has shown us that we’re still in the early days of ephemerality and other forms of social privacy. Even so, users see the future and are flocking to these apps in droves. As the market and these technologies continue to evolve, it will be interesting to see in what other ways consumers will be enabled to share, control, manage and even delete their digital moments.
I have a few ideas on this, but will leave that for another post…