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Lately, I’ve tried to use more ephemeral social media. Stuff that doesn’t stick around and isn’t as permanent as Facebook or Google+. I finally signed up for Snapchat and learned the joy of sending funny faces to my friends. I also signed up for Spirit for Twitter, a service that auto-deletes your old tweets after a certain period.

I even tried browsing some 4chan, a site which blocks posters from using names or identification of any kind. Threads vanish within minutes. Content there is as quick and temporary as Snapchat in some ways.

The experience has taught me a few valuable lessons on social media, and how we as a society have changed ourselves in response to the internet.

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Traditional Social Media Is Too Permanent

The biggest advantage of temporary social media is its more personal nature. I worry less about what I post when I know it’ll disappear in a few minutes.

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Years of Facebook use have conditioned me to double-check each post before I click “Send.” Is this interesting? Embarrassing? Would I be OK with an employer reading this?

Facebook and Google archives work as a living record that keeps your thoughts alive for everyone to read – including parents, teachers, and potential employers.

You think before posting. You worry if it’s appropriate. If you want that uncle who’s Facebook friend request you couldn’t refuse to see it.

Our interactions with permanent social media have become hobbled. We hesitate to shout into the void when the wrong person could hear it.

Temporary Media Feels More Natural

Contrast that with the new services I tried. Snaps last for a few meager seconds before the app removes them from easy reach (more on that in a minute).

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Snapchat also solves some of Facebook’s worst annoyances. When I take a picture of me and a friend making funny faces, I can send it to exactly the people I want to see it.

Grandma, grandpa, those “friends” from high school you try not to talk to, potential future employers stalking your page, your weird ex, they can’t see your Snaps.

Snapchat’s appeal lies in its ephemeral nature. It’s fire-and-forget. Do it. No worries. No complications. No consequences. Just images of your friends making funny faces.

Spirit for Twitter works along those lines. Add a quick hashtag like “#10m” to a tweet, and it’ll delete itself in ten minutes. Simple.

Spirit removes some of the worries from using Twitter as well. I don’t have to worry as much about the permanent record I leave behind.

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If an employer visits my page, they’ll see only the tweets I wanted to stay. They won’t see all the times I tweeted about skiing or the Auburn game or anything else that inane.

4chan offers even greater assurances of non-permanence. There are no names, no IDs, and no archives for most threads.

You can post whatever crap you’d like (and users on /b/ often do) without consequence. Well, most of the time. Which leads me to my next point…

Even Temporary Social Media Can Be Permanent

Saying Snapchat, Spirit, and 4chan provide no-worry social media experiences is technically inaccurate. These services reduce the odds of negative consequences but do not eliminate them.

Somebody could always screenshot that Snap. There are apps and Xposed modules for Android dedicated to auto-saving every image the app receives.

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Saving tweets is as easy as retweeting or taking a screenshot, as countless social media scandals reveal. Even a deleted tweet can live forever.

And 4chan is never entirely safe. An enterprising user can (and have) find your personal information and post it everywhere.

This disappointed me most in my experiment with temporary social media. Although safer, none of the three services provided an absolutely consequence-free experience.

Such an experience is likely impossible online. If you connect two people online, there is always the potential that one person or an eavesdropper will leak their conversation. You’re never really safe.

Final Thoughts

I like Snapchat and Spirit. 4chan seems too harsh. However, temporary media (and Snapchat in particular) offers a more relaxing experience that doesn’t require you to worry about whether taking an unnecessary amount of selfies will affect your future employment.