Nothing brings joy like a grotesquely distorted face filter.
According to a Snap-commissioned survey focused on how social media makes people feel, 95 percent of Snapchat users said using the app makes them feel “happy.”
Commissioning studies is common amongst the social media and tech industries. And while all commissioned surveys should be taken with a grain of salt — for example, the survey did not give “happiness” percentages for any other apps — Snap’s results do actually mirror some recent independent studies about how social media positively affects mood.
The survey results also have a business upside: They serve to differentiate Snapchat from social media competitors that are increasingly getting a bad rap as the public becomes more critical and wary of the industry as a whole.
Snapchat has also had problems gaining and retaining users, and is trying to maintain its attractiveness to advertisers even while its stock falters. This marketing push, by way of a survey, could help distinguish them as a beloved platform to advertisers.
But maybe Snap has a point as it tries to differentiate itself. Facebook has been blurring the line between Facebook (the platform) and Instagram with its push toward stories that never really expire; the ephemerality Facebook stole from Snapchat in the first place is increasingly going by the wayside. Meanwhile, Twitter and YouTube are struggling to make themselves less of a cesspool. So perhaps Snapchat, as an app that does focus on one-to-one messaging, without robust user profiles, and without “likes” is right to call itself different.
To understand how people use Snapchat and its competitors, the research surveyed 1,005 people between 13 and 44. In addition to feeling “happy,” Snapchat users also said the app made them feel “silly,” “spontaneous,” and used other positive attributes to describe the app. Meanwhile, Facebook and Twitter left users feeling both “informed” and “overwhelmed”; “connected” and “lonely.”
The survey also looked specifically at how and when people use different social media apps. The results confirmed what a Snapchat representative said the company already suspected about its users: that Snapchat is more about chatting with friends than posting status updates, like some of the other apps.
For example, the survey says Snapchat is an app people turn to when they’re on the go, to talk to their friends and play with lenses and filters. Notably, the survey says users turn to Snapchat while they’re shopping — an accolade that seems like catnip for advertisers as Snapchat tries to make headway in the shopping category.
On the other end of the spectrum, people reportedly use YouTube when they’re more sedentary, to learn about new things, and consume more content.
The survey’s results look similar to some recent independent studies on the topic. Several studies have shown that people turn to Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for news above Snapchat or Instagram.
Additionally, a 2018 Pew survey found that Snapchat is the most-used app amongst its teenage users. A second 2018 Pew study, as well as a report from Common Sense Media(an organization that advises on parenting in the digital age), found that social media makes teens feel more confident, supported, and connected. Of Pew’s 743 teen respondents, 31 percent said social media had a “mostly positive effect” on their lives, although 45 percent of the Pew respondents were ambivalent.
Given the fact that Snapchat’s most loyal users are teens according to Pew, and many teens report these positive emotions, Snapchat survey’s results of “happiness” could make sense.
So too do they mirror the other side of the coin: recent independent studies also confirm the overwhelmed or self-conscious feelings that occur when using Facebook especially.
Snap has not attributed a cause for these emotions. But a Snapchat representative said that Snapchat’s intentional design choices to emphasize friend-to-friend communication, play, reflection, and of course, ephemerality — over their competitors’ emphasis on profiles and ‘likes’ — may impact how people feel about their time on Snapchat.
Still, Snapchat is one part of a whole social media ecosystem that experts still don’t fully understand. Some studies have shown the troubling effects social media can have on mental health, others report more conservative “not that bad” findings, or like the Snap survey, even positive effects. Mashable has previously explored how it’s possible for social media to make us feel great and terrible all at once.
Snapchat is also just the latest social media company to throw its hat into the research ring. Facebook undertook a study of how social media affects people’s emotions and well-being, and determined that the problem wasn’t the app itself — but how people used it. Were they communicating and participating or just scrolling? The latter led to negative feelings, Facebook’s study found (although we should note that the former is better for Facebook’s bottom line).
What commissioned or in-house studies have in common is that the social media companies themselves choose how to present the data; Mashable was not able to view Snap’s underlying data. It’s possible that commissioned studies have more nuanced results than their sponsored companies suggest in their presentation.
Taken all together, surveys and studies — both commissioned and independent — show onething for sure: We all started using social media without the slightest understanding of how it would impact us as a society or as individuals. That’s something we’re just starting to maybe, sort of, figure out now.