Snapchat users believe online privacy is a coin toss, survey reveals

The average Snapchat user is likely to believe that there is an approximately fifty-fifty chance that anything they share on Snapchat – the increasingly popular ‘ephemeral’ social media platform – may be viewed by unintended persons. Results also show that users’ Snapchat networks are intimate and 68% will change the default setting to only share their 'Stories' with their ‘Friends’ instead of ‘Everyone’.

Snapchat is a photo-messaging application that differentiates itself from other social media by automatically deleting images and messages after they have been viewed. Snapchat informs the sender if the shared content is screenshot. Snapchat’s auto-delete function is one of the top three favourite features, the survey shows.

Snapchat, which recently raised USD3.4billion is the biggest American technology offering since Facebook. It is mostly used by millennials to casually share small and fun moments. For most of the younger generation, the so-called ‘digital natives’, life without social media is equivalent to an isolation cell.

Anthropological studies show that sharing stories, emotions and memories is an essential part of being human. Snapchat’s auto-delete function offers users the ability to share everyday mundane talk, without having to worry about it going viral.  

All social media users are faced with the dilemma of protecting their privacy while also participating in online social life, and this new research shows that Snapchat users are still worried despite the signature auto-delete feature.

The research also looked into the usage of other social media and found that the top three preferred social media platforms were Facebook (38%), WhatsApp (34%), and Instagram (12%). Amongst these, WhatsApp was the most trusted with regard to privacy, and up to 20% do not seem to trust any social media platform.

The question still remains as to whether it will ever be possible for social media users to have full confidence in sharing content online, or should we forever give up any expectations of privacy online as the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, has argued?

This first academic survey on social media and Snapchat use among students in Malaysia is a multidisciplinary, cross-campus collaboration of researchers and graduate assistants, led by Dr Julian Hopkins from the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia and Dr Ruth LT Ong from the Faculty of Languages & Linguistics, University of Malaya. It was funded by the Global Asia in the 21st Century research platform at Monash University Malaysia.422 students from Malaysian public and private university campuses completed the survey in February and March 2017.

By Dr Julian Hopkins, Lecturer, School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia