The Internet is measured in seconds, not years, not months, not even minutes.
Two years ago, nobody talked about "sexting." A politician with an appropriately inappropriate name made it a household word.
A year ago, not very many people were referring to "selfies." Now, we're all guilty of taking them. Shamelessly, evidently.
But both of these, and many other things we do every day on the Internet, silly stupid Facebook posts, or Tweets we wish we'd never twittered, come with a problem. There's a record of them. They can be searched. Whether it's your boyfriend, wife, political opponent, the inquisitive press, or even a stalker (another term that has taken on new meaning and prominence in the world today), if you said it online, it can be retrieved, often to your shame and detriment.
Along comes Snapchat, a mobile app that, according to one reviewer, "theoretically allows user to send whatever silly or ugly or dirty picture they want, to whomever they want and never have it come back to haunt them, to leave no digital trace."
As the reviewer points out, it's really a false promise, as screen captures and other means can keep a record of what's been sent, but as usual, what's new, different and cool has been, well, "snapped" up by the ever more self-important public. Snapchat users are sending more than 350 million images to one another every day.
“What," writes Snapchat staff blogger Nathan Jurgenson, "would the various socialmedia sites look like if ephemerality was the default and permanence, at most, an option?”
But if you enter “Snapchat," the app's autocomplete is "me naughty pics.”
So, ok, it's pretty clear that Snapchat was either developed specifically for sending so-called "sexts" or it was quickly adopted for that purpose. While it should be understood that anything can be stored if the recipient is nimble with technology, Snapchat does its best to prevent that, or at least notify you when a screen shot has been taken of something you text using the app. So you know when you're potentially going to be humiliated. And you can set the duration of your text to as little as one second, no doubt well within the safety limits of someone's capturing an image.
Ironically, though, Snapchat images have been used in court as proof that an unwanted image was indeed sent via the app. So keep that in mind when you're feeling frisky or funny and get the urge to snap. Just remember the old saying, if you can't show it to your mom, you probably don't want to make a record of it!