On Wednesday, Snapchat destroyed its own raison d’être. No longer are snaps fleeting: Now, with its new, sentimental Memories feature, users can save snaps to virtual Snapchat scrapbooks. At this point in the story, Tony Soprano — the star of HBO’s perfect The Sopranos series, rest his fictional soul — would walk away. In one of the show’s innumerable great moments, Tony says: “Remember when is the lowest form of conversation.”
A large part of Snapchat’s appeal was the impermanence of photos and communications. Snaps offer relief from the inescapable social media quest for perfection and also provide a venue in which users are not figuratively burned at the stake if they don’t respond.
Regarding the former, the lack of high stakes: low-quality snaps are not frowned upon. In fact, there’s even something admirable about a shitty snap. Compare that with Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter, where it seems one must be a visionary photographer and/or sage in order to participate. Yesterday, I sent a shitty snap of a rabbit in my yard with a stupid caption and didn’t even think twice about it. It was beautiful.
Regarding the latter, the low pressure to respond: in part because they’re fleeting and mindless capsules from users’ days, snaps don’t necessitate reactions. Sometimes, if a snap is really great, there might be reason to send back a “lol” message. But most snaps go unreciprocated. In our ever-demanding world, Snapchat seems a haven.
In doing away with its content’s ephemerality, though — in other words, by introducing Memories — Snapchat might be limiting its own lifespan. There was already a save-to-camera-roll feature that let users immortalize those rare premium snaps, but now sentimentality is inextricably wound up within the app itself. Saved snaps get sent to Memories, where users can then group and organize the saved snaps into customizable categories. Snapchatters can also choose to make some memories private, because Snapchat content is occasionally risqué (e.g. Mafia communications), and Memories are meant to be shared.
The hilarious promotional video, which features two gorgeous young millennials and two veritably cool parents, demonstrates one imagined use of the feature. They laugh and smile and reminisce about Hawaii, then invite the parents to take a look. Before the montage begins, the woman says — importantly — “Remember when…”
Tony Soprano would not be pleased. He’d be fucking seething, a behavior at which he excels. Snapchat, despite being fun, was already one of the lowest forms of communication. (Imagine trying to have a thoughtful debate — about, say, politics — using only snaps.) Now, with this remember when garbage, it’s downgrading itself. Soon, it could rival Facebook comments.
Tony responded to an inquiry via YouTube: