Friday, February 6, 2015

Snapchat Update Outrage

Last week, Snapchat rolled out its most recent update. Among the new features is Discover (a media section that includes CNN, Cosmopolitan, National Geographic, etc) and a new option to add users via a QR code-esque scanning system. But the most notorious change is the removal of the "Best Friends" list.

What is the "Best Friends" list and why do people care so much?

According to the Snapchat support page, your "Best Friends" are selected according to a "magical Snapchat friendship algorithm." There is debate on whether this algorithm only takes into account who users send snaps to most frequently or if it also includes who users communicate with via the messaging feature. Either way, the "Best Friends" list reflects reflected who people talked to the most—on Snapchat, at least.

Reminiscent of the "Top Friends" feature on MySpace, the "Best Friends" list is of great significance to popular culture. According to running jokes on social media, the "Best Friends" list is useful for

  • Marking your territory (e.g. actual best friends, significant others)
  • Peeking at who your ex is talking to
Exhibit A: How to check up on your significant other
And lastly, the most joked about use:
  • Checking up on your significant other
Unlike MySpace's "Top Friends", Snapchat does not let users choose "Best Friends." This, perhaps, adds to the mystique. Because users cannot control who makes the list, society believes this somehow gives a more honest picture of where a relationship stands.

Now What?

Due to the overwhelming backlash, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel announced that they will bring the feature back.

Spiegel's twitter announcement

But the fact that there was backlash at all presents a clear message—the "Best Friends" list is an important indicator of a person's honesty, and it is society that has placed attached this symbolic significance to it. After all, at its very core, the list was nothing more than an algorithm. But because it was used as another stage for social performativity, the "Best Friends" list grew to be an integral part of some relationships, for better or for worse. And without it some people are totally lost.

Exhibit B: Reliance on the "Best Friends" list

No comments:

Post a Comment