You can use Snapchat to send text messages, photos, and videos that disappear quickly after they are viewed, alongside a host of other features.
In addition to disappearing "snaps," you can also create stories and TikTok-like videos, as well as place voice and video calls.
Here's a brief introduction to all of the social media app's features and how to get started.
Snapchat got its start as a person-to-person mobile messaging app specializing in short-lived messages that disappear after a brief time. Like a secret message in a spy movie, Snapchat messages self-destructed after a few seconds. The app's features have expanded in the last few years, and now you can conduct live video chats, share videos, and make stories.
In fact, Snapchat rolls out new features frequently, so you should be sure to always have the latest version of Snapchat updated on your phone.
Snapchat also specializes in augmented reality (AR) add-ons to the experience. You can easily add AR-based filters to modify the real world in video clips and to enhance your own appearance. What hasn't changed is that all of this content is short-lived, so friends and contacts need to reply and interact with your content right away, or it goes away forever.
The ephemeral nature of Snapchat has made it a compelling experience for many millions of people. If you're new to the platform, however, here's a walkthrough of the app and how to get started. And there's little risk in trying out the service; you can completely delete your Snapchat account if you decide not to use it.
How to use Snapchat
How to download Snapchat and create an account
Unlike Facebook and other social media, Snapchat doesn't exist as a website, so you need to download and install the app on your phone. It's free and you can download it for your iPhone or Android device.
After the app is installed, you need to create an account - tap "Sign Up" and follow the instructions to create your account. You'll be assigned a generic username based on your first and last name, but you will have an opportunity to change that.
Snapchat will ask permission to access your contacts. This is a matter of personal preference, but for privacy reasons, you might want to deny permission.
The last step in your account setup is creating a Bitmoji, which is an emoji based on your own appearance. The app will need to take your picture, after which you can customize it.
The app will generally leave you logged in for quick access to the app and so you can receive incoming Snapchat voice and video calls - but you can log out if you prefer.
Getting around Snapchat
There's a lot going on in the Snapchat app, and when you first start the app, it drops you into the camera view rather than any sort of timeline or chat view, which can be disconcerting if this is your first time using the app. Here's a quick tour of the tabs in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen:
Map: The leftmost tab in the toolbar shows you where you and all your friends are on a map. If you don't want to be seen on the map, you can hide by turning off location tracking in Snapchat.
Chat: This gives you instant access to all the conversations you have with friends. Unlike other messenger apps, though, these texts disappear after they're viewed, so you can't scroll back to read your chat history.
Camera: The middle tab in the toolbar, this is where you start every time you open the app. You can send snaps (stills and videos) with this tool.
Stories: Like Instagram Stories, these are a series of snaps you can create which live for 24 hours at a time. The Stories tab lets you discover other people's stories and create your own.
Spotlight: This tab - the newest in the app - gives you the opportunity to browse Spotlight Snaps, which are TikTok-like 60-second videos.
How to create and send a snap
To get started with Snapchat, you can create and send a snap (still or video) to a lot of different places: to a friend or a group or turn it into a story or submit it to Spotlight.
On the camera tab, tap the capture button to take a still picture, or tap and hold the button to record a video. Or, tap the filter button to the right of the capture button and choose a filter or a lens to add to your snap.
After you capture your shot, you can use the tools along the right side of the screen to modify your snap. You can add text or stickers, for example, insert music, and select objects in the snap and make copies of them.
When you're done, tap "Send To" and choose where the snap should go. You should see options to send it to the Spotlight page, create or add to your story, add your snap to the map, or send it to a specific friend or group of friends.
How to chat with a friend
You can start a chat with a friend by tapping the chat tab at the bottom of the screen and then tapping the friend you want to chat with. From there, it should work and look like a messaging or chat app, except that you won't see a timeline of previous chat messages, since they are preset to erase after they are read unless saved. You can also make group chats and send messages to multiple people at once, and you can easily remove people from groups as well if you later need to change the audience for a chat or snap.
How to add friends to Snapchat
Snapchat's real value is in staying connected to friends via your Snapchat friends list, so you probably want to add your friends to easily connect with them, share snaps, and see what they are posting. There are a few ways to add your friends to Snapchat - here are the most common methods:
Add from your contacts: If you allow it, Snapchat will find friends based on the contacts on your phone. Tap your Snapchat avatar at the top left of the screen and then tap "Find friends on Snapchat" to sync your contacts.
Add Friends tool: Snapchat makes friends suggestions based on other people you already are friends with. To quickly add people from these suggestions, tap your Snapchat avatar at the top left of the screen and then tap "Add Friends." Now just add anyone in the list you want to connect with.
Add a username: If you know someone's username, you can enter it manually. Tap your Snapchat avatar at the top left of the screen and then tap "Add Friends." Then type their username in the search field at the top of the screen and add your friend when you see their name appear.
Use a Snapcode: Snapchat's clever friend-finding tool is the Snapcode. Every Snapchat user gets a unique QR code-like sticker that you can scan with your phone to automatically add that person. To do that, take a picture of the person's Snapcode or take a screenshot of it. Tap your Snapchat avatar at the top left of the screen and then tap "Add friends." At the top of the screen, tap the ghost icon on the right side of the search box and select the Snapcode image in your camera roll.
How to share your Snapcode with someone
You can share your Snapcode with a new contact easily. If you're in person, you can show them your Snapcode by tapping your Snapchat avatar at the top left of the screen - the Snapcode is right there. More commonly, though, you can include the Snapcode in a snap. After you take a still or video, tap the sticker icon on the right side of the screen and then add the Snapcode sticker. You can position it anywhere you like in the snap.
How to view a snap
You can add friends and send them snaps, so all that remains is how to view snaps (and text chats) sent to you.
Tap the chat tab and you should see a list of chats and snaps waiting for you at the top of the screen. They are color-coded:
Chats are blue
Snaps without audio are red
Snaps with audio (such as videos) are purple.
Tap the entry for your contact to see the snap or text message they have left for you. Tap the screen to exit. You can tap to replay the snap as long as you stay on the chat screen; if you exit, the snap is deleted forever. If you want to preserve a snap, you can take a screenshot of it, but the person who created it will generally be notified unless you take special steps to screenshot a snap without the sender knowing.
Keep in mind that if someone blocks you, you will no longer be able to see their snaps or stories.
How to place a video or voice call
You can also use Snapchat to make a call to one of your friends. Go to the chat tab and tap a friend you want to talk to. Then, at the top of the screen to the right of the friend's name, you should see a phone and camera icon.
To place a voice call, tap the phone. For a video call, tap the camera. Your friend should see the incoming call even if they are not currently using the Snapchat app.
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