Snapchat is a popular mobile application that allows users to send each other photos that delete themselves and are unviewable after 10 seconds.
When I first heard about snapchat about two and half years ago, I, like many people who aren’t already using it, assumed that it was an application that’s primary purpose is for sexting.
The research shows that this isn’t true. A University of Washington poll of 127 users shows that their primary uses of Snapchat are sending photos of themselves, ‘they they’re up to’, or funny things, and that 15% have used it for sexting before.
This mirrors my own use and experience of Snapchat.
At the same time, research shows that about around 15% of teenagers, and 20% of 20-30 year olds have sext before, though these statistics vary from study to study.
Common advice given is that one shouldn’t trust photos sent via snapchat to be deleted forever, pointing out that there are plenty of applications soneone can use to capture Snapchat images without notifying the person of the screenshot. This is true, there are many such apps. There is also the possibility that your, or the person you are sending your photos to, phone could be compromised by a hacker or malware, and snaps be captured that way.
However, I would still argue that if one is going to send nude photographs, then Snapchat is the safest medium for doing it. While Snapchat can’t protect you from people who have the intention of capturing your snaps, it can protect you from someone sharing your snaps retroactively.
That is – if the sexting is occuring in the context of a romance where you both like and trust each other, and implicit in the use of snapchat is that neither of you are using screen capturing software, then the photos are not going to be captured. This relies on your own judgement of a person and their integrity as to whether you are correct about them not using a screen capturing software afterwards. Sexting a charming person you’ve just met on Tinder probably isn’t a sensible idea if you’re concerned about your images being shared, but sexting your boyfriend/girlfriend of 3 months who you trust in other regards has a much lower risk.
If the relationship later goes sour, the snaps that were sent at the time before the relationship soured can not be captured retroactively, and thus can’t be shared out of malice or spite.
This is in contrast to sexting via other methods where the image is persisted, such as MMS, email, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp etc, where the images can be retrieved at will by an aggrieved party and shared.
Bottom line: No, of course Snapchat isn’t 100% safe if you’re concerned about compromising photos of yourself being leaked. One shouldn’t discount a phone being compromised by hackers or malware, or your sexting partner using a Snapchat screen capturing software. If you can accept those risks, Snapchat prevents the malicous or spiteful sharing of photos in the event that the feelings in the relationship change. If you can’t trust the person you’re dating not to be using a screen capturing software, then perhaps you’re dating an asshole and you should be considering whether you should be dating them at all.