It used to be that when someone took an awkward photo of you, it would end up on every social networking site for the entire world to see, like and comment on.  But now, when someone snaps an embarrassing photo of you, it is usually because as soon as that photo is opened it is gone just as quickly as it was taken.

The app Snapchat has become quite popular among college students and can be downloaded for free on an iPhone or other smartphone.

Snapchat, a smartphone app, allows people to take and send photos that appear only briefly for the recipient. EZRA MARGONO/THE STATESMAN
Snapchat, a smartphone app, allows people to take and send photos that appear only briefly for the recipient. EZRA MARGONO/THE STATESMAN

“I used it for a few months but just with my close friends,” sophomore linguistics major Tiffany Farrell said.  “Almost everyone I know downloaded it when it first became popular.”

Many take comfort in the fact that the picture they take, no matter how embarrassing or inappropriate, will self-destruct in a few seconds and will not end up on any social networking site.

Some people take advantage of this feature to use Snapchat as a sexting app.

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“I have heard of it being used as a sexting app,” senior psychology major Brittany Mortimer said.  “But I would personally never use it as a sexting app.”

Originally, many felt comfortable using Snapchat as a way to participate in sexting.  Users assumed that their photo was secure being viewed for such a short amount of time.  But people quickly found a way to make the ‘snaps’ reappear.

While viewing the photo, a user can take a screenshot, which will save the picture to their photo library.  It will also notify the sender that you took a picture of their ‘snap.’

The concept of Snapchat was originally developed by Evan Spiegel, who utilized this idea for a final project in his product design class at Stanford University, according an article in “Forbes” magazine.

“Everyone said, ‘That is a terrible idea,’” Spiegel said. “Not only is nobody going to use it, they said, but the only people who do will use it for sexting,” according to the article.

“You can send pictures and time how long the person sees them for, so it allows for people to send provocative pictures without worrying the person receiving them will save them,” Mortimer explained when asked why she believed the app would be popular for sexting.

Spiegel’s “terrible idea” has now grown into an app that is used 50 million times a day by millions of users. The app is most popular with teens and young adults.

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Spiegel explained that many of his friends on Facebook were self-conscious and afraid to act like themselves on these social networking sites. He felt that their pictures were posed and not a good display of their true character.

“People are living with this massive burden of managing a digital version of themselves,” Spiegel laments. “It’s taken all of the fun out of communicating.”

Even though its original intention was not for the purpose of sexting, some users share those risky photos through Snapchat that they might be too afraid to send over text.

“I never thought of it as an app for sexting,” sophomore mechanical engineering major Russell Amore said. “But I know that some people use it as one.”

Facebook launched an app in December 2012 with the same features as Snapchat called Poke.  Even though the concept of the app was the same, many users decided to stay loyal to Snapchat.

Although the features of the app may seem beneficial for sexting, many people who use Snapchat and similar apps such as Poke just use it for fun with friends, if they use it at all.

“It was funny for a while but then we just stopped using it,” Farrell said.  “I deleted it because I send pictures through iMessage and don’t need to use an app to do the same thing.”

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