Permanence in social media and journalism

We’ve all been there.

Whether it’s a simple typo inside a Tweet or that embarrassing, acne-filled picture from your awkward junior high dance, there have been things we want wiped clean from social media.

But, sometimes it just feels like these images will never escape.

A recent Reddit thread told of the trials and tribulations of young men and women who’ve had sexually explicit photos of themselves leaked online. And the stories are often troubling. Reddit users described suicidal thoughts and school transfers following leaked pictures.

So it’s no surprise that apps like Snapchat that wipe away any evidence of an embarrassing or racy photo in as little as a second resonates with anyone who used social media during their more awkward years.

It’s already a good idea to make sure your social media footprint is scrubbed clean. And certain apps like Snapchat or sites like reputation.com, which let you control your data, could be a good idea if you know that you’re going to make poor decisions on social media in the future.

As young people approach the job market, a social media footprint absent of beer bongs and poor grammar will be crucial in even squeaking a toe through the front door of a respectable news organization for a job interview. But, the best rule to live by is still the simple one of don’t post stupid stuff on social media.

As journalists, there can be an advantage to using this erasing technology or even the Snapchat App itself.

Media leaders like National Public Radio and the Washington Post are already pioneering the way, allowing people to send in snaps for curation or sending out stories for consumers. So using this brief and interesting app could be a huge advantage for reporters in the future. As attention spans continue to shrink, ten second snippets might be all we get anyways, so learning extreme brevity on Snapchat might be a huge advantage in the future.

The lack of permanence can also come in handy by not overloading people with content. Sometimes, users might be away from their phones for a couple days and there are a million push notifications that they easily could’ve gotten somewhere else. By having these sorts of notifications erase over time, media organizations won’t overload mobile consumers.

Telling big stories via Snapchat will probably never be possible. Trying to convey the way a state budget works would be difficult. This will probably make some regional publications shy away.

But the types of stories that online journalism users tend to be most interested aren’t these complex pieces anyways. The key in the future will be finding a way to draw people in to important stuff on the web, like budget or public safety stories, by using these fun and entertaining snapshots of life to intrigue people enough to want to learn more.

In the meantime, young journalists shouldn’t shy away from Snapchat, even though people’s ability to capture images or video might be a little scary. The app improves on brevity and helps capture a story in a short time, and practice makes perfect for those who want to make a living capturing small stories in the future.

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About robbykorth

I'm a journalist graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in May 2014. I'm passionate about finding good stories and telling them in a creative way with creative writing. I love the entire process of creating journalism from the reporting to putting the ideas on the page.
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