Last month, Facebook started rolling out some Snapchat copycat features for its Android and iOS apps, and I'm frustrated.
Included in the update are Facebook Stories, Facebook Camera and the one that made me throw my hands up in defeat, Facebook Direct. This allows users to send disappearing photos and videos to friends, the exact feature I had been trying to keep out of the hands of my young teenagers.
Why? Because when some people believe a photo or video will self-destruct in 10 seconds or less, they are more likely to use the feature for sexting. I just didn't want my kids to have that possibility. So, I declared there would be no Snapchat until my kids turned 16, and only then if they proved they could use their second-choice social network (Instagram) properly.
Then last year, Instagram decided it would add the disappearing photos option. I shook my head and told my kids I would allow them to use it (at age 15), since they had been posting fairly responsibly. But, they complained that no one was using it; that all their friends were on Snapchat. It is not true that "no one" is using it. In just five months after launch, Instagram Stories had 150 million daily users. I have still decided to make my teens hold out on getting Snapchat until age 16.
And now Facebook has added this self-destruct feature as well. You may not realize that Facebook owns Instagram, and when it saw the success of Instagram Stories, it didn't wait long. The social media behemoth realized users obviously want more visual communication and acted on that.
So if you want to join in on all the fun, or want to be educated on how your kids are using these platforms, make sure you have the latest version of Facebook on your phone, and let's get started.
Now, on the Facebook app, you can simply swipe right to open up the camera. You can also tap the camera icon in the upper left hand corner of the screen. It's the basic tap on the circle for a photo, and holding it down for a video. Facebook allows up to a 20-second video — a lifetime when you consider Instagram allows a 15-second maximum, and Snapchat only gives you 10 seconds.
For years, I have told people to say no to vertical video, but not in this case. It's vertical video all the way for these features. From there, have fun playing around with dozens of filters. The regular filters include one that makes you look like you're on an old VHS tape, or one that paints your face like a Picasso. Frames options have hip words like "goals" or "fam."
And finally there are interactive filters millennials and teens know and love from Snapchat. Facebook has tons, including a sparkly turquoise beard that scatters glitter when you shake your head, and a raincloud crown that sends down rain and lightning when you open your mouth.
There are also branded effects, like a Minions filter that throws goggles on you and shoots bananas into your mouth when you open it. Users aren't able to type captions under these, so you'll now have the option of text overlay or to scribble something with your finger. You can save the creations on your phone or share them.
This new feature pops up now above your newsfeed. You can't avoid the banner of little circles holding your friends' profile pics. A story is a slideshow that will disappear in 24 hours. You can watch your friends' stories and make your own. There's no liking on these, but you can direct message your friend right on the story.
If you decide to post a story, all your friends will be able to view it. You can also opt to post it to your timeline where you can make it available only to certain friends. You can always delete a story, and you'll be able to see exactly who has viewed it too.
Facebook users can now send a photo or video directly to one of their friends. Once that friend views it, they are only allowed one more peek within the next 24 hours when it will vanish. This is the feature that scares me a little bit as a parent. Will teens choose to use this feature to send inappropriate photos and videos? Possibly. But there is truly no major social media platform left without the option to send disappearing content.
Parents, we're at a point now when we must realize that allowing children to have Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook means they will have the option of having a photo self-destruct. We must have conversations with them early and often about appropriate content. Each parent will have to decide for each child when and if they will ever be ready for such a feature.
Reality today is that if you allow your child to have a major social media app, they will be faced with choices about good and bad content multiple times a day. Are they ready? Only you can decide.