Exchanging explicit pictures has been around long before the introduction of technology, however, it was only since the early 2000s that smartphones elevated nude picture sharing to the mainstream.
It first began through texting, instant messaging and e-mailing. From then on, various apps were used for the purposes of sexting but none seemed to harness the modern phenomenon in any significant way. Then, in 2011, the phenomenon known as Snapchat came along and changed the game for everyone.
While not too dissimilar from other social media platforms at the time, Snapchat based on its premise on a simple idea: any pictures sent will disappear after a certain amount of time. Straight away, the sexual connotations are clear. The only types of images that you might wish to eventually vanish are ones which reveal something about the sender – in this case, their bodies.
Despite its reputation as a snap cheat app, Snapchat was never actually intended as such. Indeed, the very purpose of its creation was inspired by the inventor’s housemate saying that he wished his nudes would disappear after he sent them, but that was simply the seed that started it all. From that moment, Reggie Brown and Evan Spiegel ran with the idea of disappearing images and made it the basis for their upcoming social media platform.
Neither creator could quite believe how quickly their idea took off. Within a year, Snapchat had acquired almost two million users. It might sound like a tiny drop in the ocean compared to Facebook and Twitter at the time, but the social media market was already over-saturated and under-utilized.
It seems that Snapchat was in the right place at the right time. Constant interconnectivity meant that online interaction was fast becoming the primary way people were hooking up, which meant these people needed an online hub to take their sexting to the next level. This level would be sharing nudes.
There and then, one app stood out above the rest. An app that promised discretion and privacy like no other app on the market could. A safe place to share pictures without having to worry about them being stolen and shared elsewhere.
In 2013, Snapchat rose to the dizzying heights of social media supremacy alongside Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
As it became more popular, its reputation as a sexting platform grew and grew until it became the 150-million strong platform we know it as today. Not only is it the go-to place to share your intimate pictures with dates, fuck buddies and strangers, but it’s also the preferred destination of professional adult stars and sex workers to peddle their seductive wares. These days, it’s difficult to spend any amount of time on Snapchat and not come across the occasional nude – even when you’re not looking for them!
Whether you might think of it as good or bad, Snapchat has “normalized” sexting and done everything it can to strip away all of the negatives stigmas associated with it. Without Snapchat, sexting would obviously still be going on – but it would happen on platforms which didn’t offer Snapchat’s privacy-conscious gimmick.
Over its short lifespan, Snapchat has come under fire for its casual approach to sending and receiving explicit materials. However, it’s also been heavily praised for taking a modern approach to a cultural phenomenon. It’s difficult to say whether Snapchat has helped or hindered the sexting game, but there’s no denying that it’s changed the world forever.