SnapChat and the New Transiency of Information
By Geraint Element
Photo by Jenny Downing - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Ephemeral is a word that means temporary or transitory.
Ephemeral communication means information sent
between people that exists only in the minds of the sender
and recipient once the exchange is over.
Photo by Sam Howitz - Creative Commons Licence (Flickr)
While historically, once something
was on the internet it was
Photo by Darien Library - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
With the potential to be copied and
used by anyone, for any purpose.
Photo By Gonzalo Baeza H - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Apps like Snapchat have opened the door to a
world of non-permanent digital
communication and media.
Photo by The Ofﬁcial CTBTO Photostream - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Where photos are destroyed after
Photo by Stephan Geyer - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
9% of cell phone owners used Snapchat in 2013 and this number is
Photo by Barney Livingston - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
And Snapchat is not the only one! Many
other transient information services are
starting to emerge.2
Photo by Michelangelo Carrieri - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Like Wikr, a service with military grade encryption for
sending information files that automatically self-destruct
Photo by AxsDeny - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
What are the problems with this?
Photo by Pro Juventute - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Creates a superior medium for sexting
via the sharing of embarrassing photos.
This has caused a significant increase in
sexting by phone users since Snapchat’s
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
But if the images aren’t permanent then this practice should be completely safe…
Photo by Emery Way - Creative Commons license (Flickr)
That’s the gimmick anyway, and what many
people who use the software are encouraged to
Photo by Gabriele Barni - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Problem: not exactly impermanent!
There are many different ways a photo
could be copied off of ones phone
before it is deleted; like taking a screen
shot, taking a picture of the phone, or
directly accessing the phone’s local
Photo by Raﬁq Phillips - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Then it can be shared on Facebook, and copied…
Photo by Sturatpilbro - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Photo by Len Matthews - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
And copied…until it is quite permanent indeed.
Photo by Sarah Reid _ Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Two Simple Tips: 1.
Educate yourself about
the apps you use and
what permanent really
Photo by Ben Grey - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
2. Don’t share anything that could potentially damage your reputation! Permanent or not!
Photo by Karolik - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
So why should we encourage ephemeral communication?
Photo by Peter Kaminski - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
A lot of the stuff that is shared
on digital media is just
Photo byTorkild Retvedt - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
This data takes energy to
store, Googles data
centers consume over 260
million Watts, enough to
power a city of 100 000 to
200 000 people!4.
Photo by Jason Bachman - Creative Commons License (Flickr)
Making more of the non-crucial
information out there impermanent
could reduce the strain on these
systems and increase the efficiency of
digital media; saving money, energy,
and making digital information a much
more environmentally friendly medium.
1.Duggan, M. (2013). Photo and video sharing grow online. Pew Internet.
2.Wadhwa, Tarun. (2013). Why we should celebrate Snapchat and
encourage ephemeral communication. Forbes. Web: http://
3.Poltash, N. A. (2013). Snapchat and Sexting: A Snapshot of Baring Your
Bare Essentials. Richmond Journal of Law & Technology, 19(4), 1.
4.Daily Mail Reporter. (2011). Google uses more power than salt lake city
as fast data farms suck up electricity. Mail Online. Web: http://
A particular slide catching your eye?
Clipping is a handy way to collect important slides you want to go back to later.