So, you’re a Gen Xer, you’ve got a great phone and you want to use that Snapchat app thing to talk to some of your younger Millennial cousins/kids/prospective Tinder dates. But, you’re not really down with the kids and have no idea what Snapchat really is or how to use it. We hear you.
There are all sorts of good reasons to use Snapchat. You may be surprised to find it can actually be useful in the workforce, and besides which, Twitter is dying and you’ll need a new way to stay entertained somehow.
As one of MakeUseOf’s native Xennials (yes, there’s a seven-year window of people who don’t really fit in either generation so we’ve given ourselves a dumb name — just roll with it), I’ve decided to help bridge the gap and explain Snapchat in terms any Gen Xer can understand. Ready? Let’s go.
So, how do you use Snapchat? Well, you just… use Snapchat.
@wayne_peters You just create a snapchat account.
— Wittertainment (@wittertainment) November 14, 2014
First off, Snapchat can be found in the App Store or Google Play store, which is the same place you got Facebook, your banking app, Bejeweled and Ticket To Ride. It’s not that hard to find it, so don’t screw this bit up or people will laugh at you. Even the Boomers.
Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh. Let’s get to using the app itself.
The first thing you need to know is that Snapchat won’t help you work it out in any way, shape or form. Unlike other apps, where you can Google some instructions if you’ve forgotten how to do something, Snapchat have a completely useless support page that basically implies that if you can’t work it out you should go play somewhere else. This is deliberate. And there are always new features with every Snapchat update, so keep up.
But the good thing is that if you know what it is you’re trying to work out, it’s not actually hard. It’s just that as a first-time Snapchat user you’re probably going to look like a moron because you don’t even know what is normal.
Adding Snapchat Friends
First of all, you need some friends. If you pick “Add from contacts” you’ll find all the teenagers you know, but probably no adults at all, which is great if you want to chat to your niece, but not much else.
Scouring the internet for celebrities on Snapchat is fun, and will get you some nice Stories to watch, but you’ll forget who they are most of the time and it’s not like they’ll ever snap you back. Plus, most of the celebrities on Snapchat are people you’ve never heard of. I don’t even think Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp have accounts, sorry.
If you look at the pictures of your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter friends you might occasionally see someone using a Snapcode as a profile pic, showing off to the whole world that they use Snapchat (because if they didn’t no-one would even know). You could take a photo of this and then add them using the “Add by Snapcode” function, but given your luck with technology you’ll give up on this after half an hour of wondering where the pic went. Just add them by username instead.
Oh, and if you’re ever at a party with under-30-year-olds, you can try the “Add nearby” function. But if you mention you’re doing it they’ll all probably think you’re a bit sad and won’t want to add you. Catch 22.
Block the Weird Guys
Now, ladies, one of the first things you’re going to want to do is get cozy with the block function. That’s because Snapchat is like the rest of the internet, but a lot more naked. Most of the guys you’ve added will think they found you on Tinder, or just be really hopeful, and they’ll be sending you the most random almost-naked pics with really generic lame comments, hoping that you think they’ve only sent this picture to you when they really just sent it to every friend they have that they think is female.
If you’re looking to pick up or just see some eye-candy then good for you. But it gets old really quick, especially when you thought of these people as professional contacts. Click the three lines in the top left of their chat history with you to see their profile, then block.
Even after all this, you’ll probably spend most of your time on Snapchat just checking out people’s stories. Swipe left to get to the stories, then browse away. Most are cute selfies, some are crazy videos, a few are funny, and occasionally they are insanely artistic. Snapchat Discover is also hiding in there, and it’s all good entertainment.
You’ll feel inadequate and old in no time, and you’ll start to wonder if you’ll ever do anything interesting enough that it’s worth snapping anyway. Pretty soon, you’ll be wishing you’d had a smartphone and Snapchat installed back in the early 90s when you used to go out clubbing all the time. Nowadays, it’s a good thing your dog is cute. Everyone likes dogs.
Chatting & Snapping
Then one day, something crazy will happen and you’ll actually have someone you want to chat to via Snapchat. Swipe right to get to your list of contacts to chat to, or just start snapping pics and sending after you snap. You’ll take some random picture and no doubt work out how to add a quick message to it. Then you’ll probably get back the most charming comments, like “Do you even know what you’re doing?”.
What You’re Doing Wrong on Snapchat
So, here’s a quick guide to what you’re doing wrong. First, change the timing from the default three seconds to something more reasonable, like 10. Look for the little number in a circle down in the bottom left after you’ve taken a picture — that’s it.
Next to that after you’ve taken a pic is a down arrow and a tray. That’s this generation’s idea of a “Save” button, because they don’t understand what floppy disc icons are. By default, this will save your picture to your Snapchat Memories (which is a bit like those old lockable diaries we all had, but with pictures). This is all good and well, but if you want to be able to share that snap to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and everywhere else your actual friends will see it, you’ll need to change the default setting to save to your camera roll too.
To change your default settings, head to your profile by tapping the ghost icon at the top, click the settings icon in the top-right, then Memories > Save To. I like saving to both Memories and Camera Roll. But choose what you like. If you’re not saving to Camera Roll, then to get your pics out of Snapchat you’ll need to screenshot your own Memories, and if you’re actually still reading this article, that probably sounds like hard work to you.
And conversely, if you ARE quick to screenshot pics you see on Snapchat, just be aware that Snapchat will tell the person who sent you the snap. You will look like the creep that you are, and you won’t get any more snaps from that person. Just saying.
Making Your Snaps Interesting
Going back to the things you can do after you’ve taken a picture, up top you’ve got your stickers, text, drawing tools and the like. They’re pretty simple to figure out, even if it takes you far too long to work out how to resize things properly (hint: two fingers moving in and out).
As a first-time user, you might not even notice the filters, which are hiding a left-swipe action away after you’ve taken a picture. Some of them are just like your Instagram filters, while others are Geofilters specific to where you are.
Then there are the cool lenses like the dog face, gold butterflies and face-swapping gizmos. These are found by holding the camera so your face is in view on screen, then clicking and holding on your face. Only then do you see the lenses you can add. Oh, and it’s worth knowing that the dalmation face can only be given to the second person in a photo, so don’t go spending hours looking for it.
You’ll forget how to get to the lenses, no doubt, but it won’t matter because you’ll find that even after you’ve taken a selfie and put a dog face on it, you’ll be too embarrassed to send it to anyone anyway. Because dog face.
More Ways to Mess Up on Snapchat
Now, here’s the most fun thing you can screw up on Snapchat. After you’ve taken a picture, there’s a little square looking button sitting next to the “Save” button. After working out how to use lenses and filters, you might be feeling a bit adventurous and decide you’re going to press that button and see what it does. What that will do is send your crazy looking dog face pic to your Snapchat Stories, where everyone you know can see that pic for the next 24 hours. Awesome.
If you do accidentally send a snap to your stories, you can actually delete it by watching it and clicking on the bin (ask me how I know). So, it’s not the end of the world, even though you will feel like a fool.
On the note of Snapchat Stories, you can head into your settings at any time and decide how public you want those to be. Be sure to set that before you start playing with it.
Snapchat Friend Emoji
One last thing you’ll want a vague idea about is the whole Friend Emojis thing. You see, you start with a baby face next to a new friend, then as you get more chatty you get different symbols. Most of them are kind of cute, but a few of them are just an infuriating way to make you wonder who is better friends with your BFF than you are. Since this is the sort of life-changing torture that would keep a teenager glued to the app, this is exactly why Snapchat plays these mindgames with you.
Why Is Gen X Scared of Snapchat?
Other than that, there’s not much to Snapchat really, and it’s kind of funny to see how scared most of Gen X is of it. Mostly, I think the main reason Gen Xers aren’t using it is because no-one else their age is. Not because it’s tricky. So, get Snapping.
What did you screw up when you first tried Snapchat? Let’s have a giggle.
Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock
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