When I started using Facebook in 2007, the learning curve was as smooth as a baby discovering where its mother’s nipples are for the first time. Later on, I figured that my fellow Ugandans would have a hard time catching up with Snapchat and I jotted down four reasons why Snapchat is not their thing. Well seems I was not wrong after all. Many of my friends still find it as confusing to use since they first installed the app on their phones. When I began using Snapchat, this social network made me feel old.
How old? Well, when a 20-something tried to explain to me how to add a friend in the app, she began talking loudly and slowly. “YOU…PRESS…HERE…OK?” Well, am not that old and am a professional technology reviewer. Not exactly Mayanja Nkanji old.
Attention everyone born before 1986: It’s not you, it’s Snapchat. The app, now used daily by 100 million people and growing, requires the same great attention as inserting a micro-SIM card in a smartphone. The app has strange looking icons that look like ancient hieroglyphs, several confusing menus and the challenge is what to press next making the whole experience feel like some kind of puzzle. And before I forget, I should bring it to your attention that many of the messages on the service self-destruct after you look at them. Yes welcome to the Social Networks of the 2000s
Is it the case of the bad work man blaming his tools? Can we blame Snapchat for our flaws. Most of the leading 2016 presidential candidates have not even tempted to create or even posted anything on Snapchat, but they have made Facebook and Twitter a second campaign rally platform of sorts.
So why use Snapchat, when there are already three massive social networks to choose from? Because it is awesome. Well, that’s how millennials would answer. Okay, let me break it down for you. Facebook is for major life updates. (Your friend from secondary school just had her 10th baby!) Twitter is for keeping up with news and live events. ( Desire Luzinda has a new Album guys!) Instagram is for jealousy-inducing photos. (Irene Ntale is now in Dubai….Ya rite its a second home for Ugandan summers)
Snapchat is for bearing witness—telling stories in raw, often humorous, behind-the-scenes clips or messages. If our 70- something old president still has the energy to traverse the country and ask for your votes, we can conquer—and even learn to love—Snapchat. Here’s how I did.
Part of what makes understanding Snapchat so difficult are the many different ways of communicating inside the vertical screen. But always remember, its composed of 3 elements:
- Snaps—Snaps are self-destructing photos or quick videos (up to 10 seconds) you send to one or multiple friends. Users send these expiring messages because they allow for more intimate and personal conversations. You’ll find sent and received snaps hiding to the left of the home screen.
- Story—Increasingly, people are broadcasting their snaps for everyone to see in what’s called a story—a series of moments that won’t self-destruct for 24 hours. You’ll find your friends’ stories to the right of the home screen.
- Chat—Snapchat also has one-to-one text chatting. You chat back and forth in the typical way, but when you navigate away from the chat screen, you lose the thread forever. Chats, like snaps, appear to the left of the home screen.
Become a Snapchat Guru
There are two ways to use Snapchat. I first used it as a some kind of stalker by viewing others’ snaps or stories. Of course, even figuring out simply how to follow people on Snapchat requires a Masters Degree. But seriously, Who makes an Social media app whose main screen is a live view from your phone’s camera framed with cryptic icons? Well, seems Snapchat is an exception. Swipe down on that camera screen or tap the ghost icon up top. Voila! You’ve discovered your Profile screen!
Select “Add Friends” and you can scan your phone’s address book for Snapchatters you may already know. You can also search by username, but be specific. Off by a letter or number? You’ll follow the wrong person. (And yes, deleting that person is a good five-step process.)
That’s why the cool kids use Snapcodes. On that Profile screen, you’ll see a Snapchat ghost in the middle of what looks like French cheese. Point your camera at someone’s Snapcode then tap and hold the screen to add that person as a friend.
Many celebs have their Snapcodes on Google. You can save the image itself to your phone, then hit “Add From Snapcode” from your Profile page. Like Instagram, you can choose to have public stories—most celebrities, and more and more common folk, do—or private ones, that can only be seen when you and your friend follow each other.
Become a Snapchat Storyteller
Snaps and stories let you depict your life in a more authentic way. I didn’t expect it to happen, but I’m now addicted to creating them okay like once a month of so. Don’t think of it like a perfect tweet or Facebook post, Just be you. The whole point of snapchat is to capture a raw, unrehearsed experience—and then use digital tricks to give it context and personality. So here we go
1. Camera: Press down once on the circular camera button to take a photo. Hold down to shoot video. Zoom by pinching on the screen. Switch from rear to front camera, even mid-shot, by double tapping.
Side tip: Look at the camera, not the screen. And horizontal video is a no-no. The app doesn’t flip it vertically and no one wants to hold their phone sideways for your snap.
2. Text & Art: After you’ve got your photo or video, tap the text icon. Tap twice to get the bolder font—you can resize by pinching and adjust the color. Insert emojis by tapping the emoji sticker button and add a sketch or arrows with the doodling tool.
Side tip: The more text, the better your “Snapsterpiece.” (Yes, thats a new word, apparently.) You want fun captions that explain what’s happening.
3. Effects: When the camera is pointed at your face, hold down on the screen and you will get a selection of bizarre special effects or “Lenses” keyed to your facial movements.
Side tip: Don’t overuse these, please. They’re fun, but add no real value.
4. Filters: After you’ve got your shot, swipe right to add a time or temperature stamp, or a location-themed sticker. Keep swiping to speed up or slow down the video.
Side tip: These filters and effects are “epic.” They are essential to providing context to your story. You can use multiple filters by holding a finger down on the screen while swiping.
Once you’ve captured your first great snap, tap the arrow at the bottom right. There you can opt to send it to one or multiple friends or add it to your story. Keep adding more, and your friends will get 24 hours of your so-called life whenever they peek in.
So there you go, a simple Snapchat for dummies guide.
Extracts from WSJ