Snapchat’s newest feature, Snap Map, has created a lot of headlines, ranging from privacy and safety concerns to Twitter jokes. Want to know what all the fuss is about? DeTeched is here to give you the breakdown.
WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS
According to SnapChat, Snap Map, which debuted at the end of June, helps people get “inspired to go on an adventure.” It allows users to see where any of their friends are, where the most Snaps are coming from at any given moment, and what’s happening around the world — all in real time. Unsurprisingly, it’s also been dubbed the “stalk your friends” feature.
To open the Snap Map, simply open Snapchat and pinch two fingers together. From there, you’ll see what might look like a more cartoonish version of Google Maps. The Snap Map is populated with your friends’ Bitmoji, which show where you friends are at any given time, but only if they have the app open. Additionally, the app only updates a user’s location on Snap Map when they open it. If you see a friend is nearby, you can easily tap on their Bitmoji to immediately start chatting with them or view their personal “Story” — Snaps they upload on their profile for all of their friends to see, which delete after 24 hours.
In addition to seeing where your friends are, the Snap Map also shows where Snaps submitted to the collaborative “Our Story” are coming from. Snaps on Our Story, which are submitted by users and visible to the public, offer a glimpse into what’s happening in different parts of the world — they usually revolve around special themes or events like concerts, holidays or newsworthy events. Interestingly enough, Snap Map has the power to break news in the same way that Twitter does — “Our Story” submissions have immediately started popping up during newsworthy events in real time, often times before police and media even show up on the scene.
These Snaps on “Our Story” are shown by “thermal sensors” that color the map. The redder a specific location is, the more Snaps there are coming from that spot. It peaks curiosity and lets users know there’s something to behold — “I wonder what could be happening right now in that neighborhood near me that’s causing so much red to show up on Snap Map?”
By having the ability to view Snaps from all over the world, at any hour, the Snap Map lets users take a peek into the lives and experiences of people across town, across the country and across the globe. You can use it to stalk your friends, explore a potential location spot, or satisfy your wanderlust from the office.
TO USE OR NOT TO USE?
While the Snap Map is the first of its kind and comes with a lot of new and interesting features, many have become concerned regarding issues of privacy and safety.
One of the biggest factors that have influenced these concerns is Snap Map’s detail. Upon zooming in, you are able to see satellite images that show specific buildings and street names, large and small. For example, I can easily find out where a friend of mine lives by clicking on her Bitmoji and zooming all the way in, down to the specific house:
Do You Have To Share Your Location?
Location sharing on Snap Map is completely optional and turned off by default. You can choose from three visibility options — if you don’t want to share your location with anyone but still see where others are on the Map, choose Ghost Mode. If you want to be visible only to select friends, then choose those users. Or, if you’d like your location to be visible to all of your friends (as long as you are mutual friends) then select My Friends. These settings can be changed at any time.
Again, your location on Snap Map is only updated when you’re using Snapchat, not if your phone is simply on.
Can People Actually See What You’re Doing?
Another distinction is that the Snap Map does not show what you’re doing in real time, unless you’ve consciously uploaded content to your Story. But Snapchat does try and guess what you’re doing using data such as your location, speed of travel, and time of day. When it makes an assumption about what you’re up to, your Bitmoji will change on the map to match — perhaps in a car if you’re on the freeway, under an umbrella if you’re at the beach or holding a suitcase if you’re at the airport.
I personally think the Snap Map is an interesting and entertaining feature, and the choice to opt out of location sharing allows users to customize their experience according to their comfort level. Contrary to popular belief, Snapchat does not quietly add users to the Snap Map and wait for them to opt out, and changing your location settings is very clear and easy.
I personally do not share my location on the Snap Map — I don’t want my friends to know where I am all the time, even if I have nothing to hide. I still value my privacy, which is a concept that seems to be undergoing a change in light of the social media age. With that being said, I can’t deny that I find it fascinating to be able to open the Map and entertain myself with my friends’ whereabouts and wonder what they could be up to there — another interesting change in the what we’ve come to define as fun.
What I do really appreciate is Snap Map’s ability to show users what’s happening in places they may not have visited before, or may never visit in person. By viewing “Our Stories” from all over the world, users can explore what others define as fun or newsworthy, and be exposed to different cultures and daily lives.