How Inconsiderate!


After reading “Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” by Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison, I couldn’t believe their definition of what a “social network site” actually was. I am taking into consideration this article is a seven year old opinion, (which is a bit fascinating because seven years isn’t incredibly long) and the concept of “social network/networking sites” is constantly evolving.

According to the article:

We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

The authors also were sure to distinguish social “network” from social “networking” sites by pin-pointing, “Networking emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers”. Although social “network” sites allow users to meet strangers, the majority of users use “network” sites to maintain previously established relationships.

I personally understand, and agree with this distinction.

The article went on to elaborate that the “backbone” of SNSs are visible profiles that display a list of friends who are also registered users. Also, that after joining a SNSs, users are required to fill out personal information fields (age, sex location), and are encouraged to upload a profile photo. The authors emphasized that the public display of friends is a “crucial component” of SNSs, as well as public and private messaging.

However, aside from Instagram, Snapchat is my second most beloved social network site. For backup, Wikipedia also agrees that Snapchat is a social network/networking site (Not that it holds any credibility according to Andrew Keen, or perhaps the “credibility” is opportune in this situation). We can use our discretion and apply it to the “network” category in relation to this article, as Snapchat is DEFINITELY not a service designed to connect strangers.

For those who are unfamiliar, Snapchat is a self-destructive social media application that allows users to post time sensitive text and images. Users don’t have visible profiles, about me sections, or profile images. Snapchat does not publicly allow users to view each others “friends” or followers, allows no public comments among followers, features no profile images/avatars, and lists no personal information about users.

The concept behind Snapchat’s design was to create a more private photo/information sharing environment, and to relieve the pressures of capturing the perfect Kodak moment for static online images and videos. The fact that images will be deleted allows users to be less self conscious and more human, and this is honestly what draws me to the app.

There are many similar SNSs to Snapchat like Wickr, Clipchat, and Slingshot. The Self-destructive photo-sharing app is a movement, and will definitely evolve in the near future. For the record, Snapchat is incredibly successful and in May of last year users were sending 700 million photos and videos every day, and Snapchat stories were being viewed 500 million times per day. Snapchat is apparently worth between $10 to $20 billion dollars and is gaining new members every day.

This major player in SNSs does not apply to Boyd and Ellison’s article, and I’m expecting to see many other sites follow in their footsteps. The traditional Facebook, and semi-traditional Instagram have very significant purposes in user’s lives, but privacy is an issue as well as the pressure to be perfect. Snapchat eliminates both of those pressures, while delivering an even more intimate SNS experience.

Boyd, D., & Ellison, N. (2008). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 210-230.

Posted on September 20, 2015, in Digital, mobile, Society, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The majority of my comment will focus on Snapchat since I’m not familiar with the app at all, but I did want to ask a question of your first paragraph. You state you “couldn’t believe their definition of what a ‘social network site’ actually was,” but the rest of your post doesn’t seem to disagree with it. What is unbelievable about those 3 items? Also, I’m glad you pointed out the date of the article; however, as an academic peer-reviewed journal article, I wouldn’t reduce it to just an opinion. And that brings us to Snapchat, which is an excellent example because it does show how the boyd & Ellison timeline didn’t anticipate such a “self-destructive” app.

    As a non-user of the app, don’t you still have to follow people in order to see their pictures? And what of screenshots that permanently keep the seemingly temporary images? See although I realize that may have changed. However see and here for their response to the Federal Trade Commission:

  2. Natasha, I loved reading about how you use snapchat. I am not a snapchat user, but from my limited knowledge of the platform I would like to challenge your statement that snapchat is more private than other platforms.

    Just last week I had my first serious urge to get a snapchat account. It was New York Fashion Week and some of the fashionistas that I follow on Instagram were referring me to their snapchat accounts so that they could “broadcast” the various events as they attended them. When I looked to see if this was a common use of Snapchat I found this article ( with a whole list of snapchat users that I could follow from designers, to editors, to the fashion models themselves. I’m pretty sure that one of the Instagram fashionistas’ snapchat feeds was being sponsored by a major retailer.

    Snapchat may have began as a more private platform, and I’m not arguing that that’s how you use it and your community uses it. Again, as an outsider it seems to me that users have been able to stretch its initial function to make it public and get paid for it!

    In contrast, here’s a link to my Instagram account —

    If I remember correctly, you won’t be able to see any of the pictures that I posted. Of course you can’t because you don’t have an account, but even with an account, I don’t think anyone who comes upon this comment will be able to see any of my images unless they submit a request to follow me and I approve it. In a way, my publishing habits on Instagram are much like yours on snapchat, except that I also publish from Instagram onto my significantly less private facebook page. I also spend a little while editing my Instagram photos and getting a bunch of them physically printed (and they said print was dead).

    I am fascinated by the actual use of social network platforms in contrast to how they were intended. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship” by Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison mentions many of these instances, the most infamous being friendster’s resistance to creating fake profiles in order to expand social networks past friends of friends.

    I guess snapchat has followed a similar path. People seem to find a way to connect to the big world out there and all the strangers in it.

  3. I think I understood that you were saying that given how social media is evolving, the authors’ definition of social media is outdated. I can agree with that except that I don’t think their definition is incorrect. It is now, eight years down the road, incomplete. It seems you and the other commenters could all agree on that.

    So this got me wondering what could be added now to the definition to make it complete in today’s context.

    I’m not sure I can add to the definition by documenting some new aspect of social media. I could add social media:

    + Provides a two-way communication channel
    + Enables users to store data
    + Creates a mechanism for engaging with enterprise

    But, each of these existed when the article was written and may simply have been out of scope for the authors. I felt they were worth noting, however. I found Wikipedia’s entry on social media to be insightful:

  4. I was really intrigued by your article this week around your view of Snapchat being considered a social media network. In fact, prior to reading your post I might have agreed that Snapchat was a social media network… but after reading your view I actually think it might have altered my own thinking a little bit. Your description of how Snapchat works got me to think that this in fact sounds like a glorified messaging tool (just like text messaging on your cell phone). So I was almost quick to say that I fully disagreed with you… so I went out to do some digging.

    In fact, Pocket-lint ( had an article discussing what Snapchat is all about and the supporting videos were really interesting in providing even more context around this evolvement of social media networking. At first Snapchat was essentially called out as a type of messaging system, but according to Pocket-lint has really taken over Facebook for younger teens and adults. Another app out there is called Voxer, which allows you to ultimately send instant 2-way radio message to someone on your contact list that also has Voxer installed. While this hasn’t obviously taken over like Snapchat, to Pocket-lint’s point and yours, it is paving a new path for social media.

    I think it is very interesting to see how instant messaging types of applications / systems are now becoming most popular. In terms of also looking at how much our society seems to be on information overload, I think it’s important to look at how this evolution of social media might be a reaction from having to much to constantly wonder through.

    Really interesting reading and food for thought…

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