Snapchat: Bad for Sexting, Good for Art

03/08/2013 11:39 AM |

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Sexting requires skill. Quality photos take time and effort, so it’s surprising to hear Snapchat, an app that lets you take self-destructing snapshots, referred to as a “sexting app”. Other than erasing a potential trail of nudie pics, the app’s sexting abilities are overblown.

In Snapchat, all photos must be new, and that’s a problem for sexting’s artifice. Putting your best-looking self forward requires, at the very least, good lighting, proper staging, and some advance planning. That’s why devoted sexters often store up their best pictures to send off later. Fakery ends up being sexier than anything else; to paraphrase Roland Barthes, we want the image of passion, not passion itself.

The best Snapchats I’ve received aren’t sexts. In one, my friend sent me a video from a laundromat, a plainly beautiful shot of washing machines rolling in sync. While it wasn’t all that deep, it was captivating in its simple, mechanized choreography. In another, my friend sent me a behind-the-scenes video of his band getting ready for a music video. He was goofing around, wearing a dress, and looking absolutely tired; it was not his most flattering moment. Neither of these videos were memorable enough to hoard memory on a phone, but they did end up capturing casual, creative moments that would otherwise go undocumented. They were more like art than anything else.

Someday, someone will send me a great dick or boob on Snapchat, but for the most part, that’s not what the app does best. It’s much better at quickly sharing random, fleeting—and unsexy— moments with a select group of people. Sexting needs artifice, and Snapchat (and newcomer Vine) can’t fulfill that need with its devotion to immediacy. But for those who need to send nudies, there’s always good ol’ Photo Booth for that.