In its early days, it was hard to figure out Snapchat. Unless you were a teen who was obsessed with the app, you might have thought it was primarily used for sexting.
Fast forward to 2015, and with 100 million daily users it’s clear that Snapchat is on to something more.
Perhaps it's because many people find Snapchat an enjoyable way to communicate — more enjoyable than using Facebook, according to new research.
A study by the University of Michigan assessed how 154 college students used their smartphones and found that, next to face-to-face interactions with people, the most "rewarding" communication happened through Snapchat.
"On the surface, many people view Snapchat as the 'sexting app,'" Joseph Bayer, the study's lead author and a researcher at the University of Michigan, said in a statement. "But instead, we found that Snapchat is typically being used to communicate spontaneously with close friends in a new and often more enjoyable way."
The study, which is the first of its kind, asked participating students how they felt about using social media throughout the day, with questions like "How pleasant or unpleasant was your most recent interaction?" and "How close are you to that person?"
Interactions on Snapchat were "associated with more positive emotions than Facebook and other social technologies," according to the study. A reason for respondents choosing Snapchat over Facebook was the "self-presentational" aspect of the latter social network.
"Since Facebook has become a space for sharing crafted big moments such as babies, graduations and birthdays, Snapchat seems to provide users with a distinct space for sharing the small moments," said Bayer.
The ephemeral nature of Snapchat aided in the "emotional reward" students felt, University of Michigan researchers found. Because messages — called "snaps" — on Snapchat disappear forever after 10 seconds, study participants found that they spent more attention on messages in Snapchat than on Facebook content.
A study conducted by the University of Houston earlier this year found that the amount of time people spend on Facebook can be linked to depressive symptoms, and an experiment by Facebook last year was met with public backlash after the News Feed was tweaked to show more negative posts.