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[Tvt News]The Allure of Snapchat’s Uncanny Valleys

Photo: Gilbert Stuart/Snapchat

The war between Snapchat and Instagram is essentially over. By leveraging a larger network of users and Facebook friends, Instagram has comfortably unseated Snapchat as the place people go to share and watch ephemeral Stories. Still, while the social graph is the defining reason that most users prefer Instagram (their friends are already there, thanks to Facebook), it doesn’t mean Instagram’s features are superior.

Case in point: Over this past week or so, a number of face filters have caused a frenzy on social media. One turns a user “masculine”, with five-o-clock shadow; another turns the user “feminine”, with long hair, rouge, and eye shadow; a third filter turn the user into a baby. They’re uncanny and a bit of fun, if the general response I’ve glimpsed is anything to go by (though some may argue that it makes light of those who fall outside of the gender binary).

@joejonas? It’s our brows?

— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) May 12, 2019

now-iconic, face-slimming dog filter; the limitless potential of the instantaneous face-swap; the breakdancing hot dog. I would lay down my life for the breakdancing hot dog. But because Snapchat mainly functions as a private messaging app and not a public-sharing platform, the most viral demonstrations of the software are not actually happening on Snapchat itself. Oftentimes, demonstrations of its filters are shared in public spaces like Twitter. Snapchat’s photo editing tools have become useful outside of Snapchat’s network (much like the way Twitter has become writing software, to be screenshotted and uploaded to Instagram). It’s hard to say what a viral tweet that relies on a Snapchat filter is worth, but I bet it’s not nothing.

— ‎⧗ ingrid dorothy ‎⧗ (@evansson_) May 12, 2019

Why is it, then, that Snapchat has continued success getting people to talk about and use its filters, while Instagram – the dominant platform – might as well not have face filters at all? Of the three classic Snapchat filters I previously listed, Instagram has only cloned the dog face for its own app. This is anecdotal but I rarely see people I follow use Instagram’s options, and when I do, they never elicit the “Oh, I’ve gotta try that” attitude that Snapchat regularly does.

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