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20 July 2017

Snapchat no longer knows what the hell it is anymore

, buddy, we need to talk. How long have we been best friends now? If I recall correctly, it’s been about two years. We’ve had a lot of good times, and even though I didn’t always understand you, the more we hung out, the more I was able to appreciate you.

I knew we passed a major milestone when, after about six months, I bumped Facebook off my home screen just to see more of you. Your were hilarious, and I loved telling my own.

There was a short period when I couldn’t wrap my mind around you. I’d delete all my selfies and craggy doodles shortly after posting them — but then I finally started to embrace your ephemerality.

It took a huge commitment to change my habits, and it also took a lot of brain-rewiring to see you in all the ways other people couldn’t. But alas, it’s time just go back to the way things started. We can’t keep hanging out all the time. I’ve started seeing someone else, and its name is Instagram.

I’ve searched deep within my heart, and I’m absolutely certain this is your fault. It’s really you. You’re a bloated mess that has packed in way too many weird features, and I honestly don’t think people appreciate them, including me. You’ve changed, and I think you’ve lost your focus.

I was admittedly skeptical when we first met. While many teens were abandoning Facebook in favor of snapping, I stuck to my guns and existing social media habit. Then suddenly my life changed. I can’t remember who exactly, but somebody at Mashable introduced me to shortly after I started working here in early 2015, and I was instantly hooked. 

I remember being enthralled by how frictionless it was to create a video. There was no need to download video clips to a computer, edit them on a timeline in a video editor, wait for the video to export, and then find a place to upload it to.

Snapchat turned a process that could take hours into seconds. In a few taps, I could share raw, spontaneous snapshots of my life with the entire world. Snapchat had figured out video creation and editing on mobile for a new generation.

Snapchat’s now a bloated mess of new features that no one uses.

I wasn’t immediately sold on the original set of limited features (text, lens filter, geofilter, and doodling), but looking back, I now appreciate how simple things were, because honestly, Snapchat has become a complete mess. 

Snapchat is a victim of feature creep, the phenomenon where a computer program keeps expanding, adding too many features and ultimately becoming overcomplicated. I can’t even figure out Snapchat anymore. It just keeps piling on new features that nobody’s asked for.

The app’s new set of features is a perfect examples of this. There are simply too many tools to choose from, to the point where I have to Google all the new ones to keep up. 

Let’s examine some of the new tools. Most of these are accessed from the scissors icon after you take a photo or video. There’s also a custom sticker creator that lets you outline something and then create a sticker out of it.

Then there’s the magic eraser, which, uh, erases selected parts out of Snap, often to eerie results.

Wow, works perfectly!

Wow, works perfectly!

Image: raymond wong/mashable

There’s the background eraser tool that basically green-screens you into a handful of backgrounds Snapchat offers. Uh, yay?

At least let us select our own backgrounds...

At least let us select our own backgrounds…

Image: raymond wong/mashable

And finally, there’s a new “Tint Brush” feature that lets you selectively change the colors of things. It sounds cool in theory, but in practice, it’s just another menu to click through before posting.

When did Snapchat become Photoshop?

When did Snapchat become Photoshop?

Image: raymond wong/mashable

These are all decent tools because they require no time to learn, but I can’t be the only one asking, “When did Snapchat become so much like Photoshop?”

Larger audience aside, one of the reasons I started posting almost exclusively to Instagram Stories is because it remains simple and fast. You get your text, your emoji, your doodles, your filters, your hashtags, and that’s basically it.

With Snapchat Stories, it feels like I’m spending more time deciding how to share something with the myriad tools than just posting something and moving on with my life. I’m all for cool uses of artificial intelligence and stuff to make the aforementioned tools easy and intuitive, so that kids can figure them out, but posting stuff to Snapchat is starting to feel like friggin’ work.

When did Snapchat become Photoshop?

And I think more people are realizing it, too. Besides seeing engagement drop (anecdotally, my account dropped from hundreds of views on my Snaps to less than a dozen), I’ve yet to see any Snapchat user take advantage of these new tools daily in their own Snapchat Stories. If DJ Khaled and Kim Kardashian, two of the most-viewed Snappers, aren’t using these editing features, it’s a good indication that the new tools are basically worthless.

The best Snapchat users are choosing to ignore these features and stick with the basic text, filters, emoji, and doodles. It needs no explanation when the new tools aren’t ever used. 

Sure, I could ignore Snapchat’s new features and stick to the basics, but what’s the point of even keeping the app then? For the 9 people who are still using the app? No thanks.

Snapchat’s problem right now is the same one Facebook has: It’s turning into a confusing social nightmare. What exactly are we supposed to be doing on Snapchat again? I can’t be bothered to figure it out, and I’ll be demoting Snapchat into my folder of “other social media” on my phone’s third home screen. Goodbye, Snapchat. It was fun while it lasted.

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