Snapchats Effect on Infidelity and Teen Sexting

Table of contents

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a form of social media, specifically an app that is used for photo, video, and text messaging. These different types of messages are considered “snaps”. Snaps are ultimately temporary, with most only lasting 1-10 seconds. However, with new updates to the app, a snap can now be seen infinitely but is still considered temporary because once one clicks out of the snap, it is forever gone.

Through many studies, it has been found that Snapchat’s quickly vanishing messages have caused the app to be interpreted as a sexting medium, where people can exchange explicit content. (Potlash, 2013; Roesner, Gill, & Kohono, 2014; Utz, Muscanell, & Khalid 2015). Since snaps are transitory, meaning they only exist briefly, it often leads to flirtatious or sexual communication within the app. (Handyside & Ringrose, 2017) In our analysis, we will compare Snapchat usage to relationship outcomes (infidelity).

Snapchat Usage

When the PEW RESEARCH INSTITUTE first assessed Snapchat in 2013, there was only a 12% popularity rate. At the time, research was done on 127 participants and it was found that the app was typically used for sending funny photos and selfies back and forth. From this study, only 1.3% used Snapchat only for sending explicit messages or photographs.

Though, 14.2% would periodically use it with the same goal. (Utz, Muscanell, & Khalid 2015). Snapchat has even been dubbed as “the greatest tool for sexting since the front-facing camera.” (Poltash, 2013). Sexting has been defined as, “the practice of sending or posting sexually suggestive text messages or images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via cellular phones … or over the internet.” (Poltash, 2013)

A report done in 2014 says that 35% of Snapchat users consider it as the highest level of privacy within a social media platform. (Bennett, 2014). For its persistency in privacy, it seems that users that are apart of the Millennial and Gen Z generations are more attracted to the app because it allows them to send more intimate messages or photographs without possible repercussions from their romantic partner.

In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear people of our generation say that Facebook or other forms of social media broke up their relationship. Gershon (2011) reported that students in her study strongly believed that Facebook caused their breakup. (Farrugia, 2013) Facebook has been cited in one third of divorces in the United States, as cited by multiple media sources in Lupkin, 2012. (McDaniel et. al, 2016)

McDaniel also referenced multiple studies such as, Cravens et. al, 2013, which focused on accounts of individuals who found their partners cheating online, and also Dew, Braker, & Hays, 2006, which focused on those who sought out extra-marital relationships via chat rooms. When combining studies like this together, it suggests that online environments provide opportunities for infidelity-related behaviours. On top of that, there is also evidence that the use of technology in general interferes with relationships, possibly causing conflict and less satisfaction within your relationship. ( McDaniel & Coyne, 2016; Roberts & David, 2016) Within another recent study, it was found that couples that are users of social networking sites (specifically, Facebook), correlated with lower levels of partner love. (Northrup & Smith, 2016)

Since ancient times humans have always developed a form of communication. In today’s world, one of our prime forms of communication is through our phones or computers, and specifically through our social media. It is claimed in the research study conducted by Rianne C. Farrugia, that intimacy is a major component in a relationship, and not only in a sexual manner but in quality interactions. Individuals who are in relationships can use SNS (online social networking sites) to express their romantic relationship and feelings.

According to multiple studies, which Farrugia listed in her research study, the most evident illustration of one’s relationship is seen through their profile photo. (Farrugia, 2013) In summary, one in a relationship tends to display their affection for their partner online by depicting themselves and their partner in their default photo/profile picture. In 2007, Clark, Lee, and Boyer, (as cited in Farrugia, 2013), found that over half of users (57%) were posting pictures of themselves with their partner or themselves in a romantic situation.

These posts are considered things that puts more value into a relationship, since one is displaying affection on their social media. (Farrugia, 2013) Farrugia referenced Mansson & Meyers, 2011, when she stated “This expression of affection and self-disclosure is a way users illustrate the value of their relationship.” Technology has completely altered the way in which we now determine and maintain relationships.

Online social networking sites (SNS) have re established one-on-one interactions through apps like Snapchat, by involving video, privacy between two people, and the ability to message back and forth. Social media can be used to maintain connections but also to easily make new ones. Then there is computer mediated communication (CMC), which isn’t only computer based communication, it also includes texting, emailing, and social media platforms to list a few examples. (Farrugia, 2013)

CMC allows for users to feel like they can be their true self, it also results in feelings of love and support. (Whitty, 2008) To support the previous sentence, a study showed that women reported online intimacy as an ego-booster. (Marshall et al., 2012) In theory, since receiving forms of attention through media based platforms, such as Snapchat for example, creates feelings of love and support, there’s an increases in the likelihood of one continuing to seek out those feelings, essentially increasing the likelihood of infidelity and decreasing the likelihood of a committed relationship.

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