How Filters Speak to the Differences Between Snapchat and Instagram

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When we compare different social media channels, we will often compare them on the basis of their content and their functionality. We think of Instagram as the ‘photo’ social network for instance, Pinterest is the ‘mood board’ social network and Facebook is something you use primarily for chatting with friends you know in the real-world.

That’s one way to look at social networks. But another way is to think about them in terms of mood, tone and demographic. Because in many ways, the same functionality can exist between multiple platforms. You can send a photo to friend via Instagram instant for example and both Facebook and Periscope have live streaming. But invariably, they’re used in different ways.

Instead of thinking of Snapchat purely as the ‘short term photos and videos’ social network then, it’s worth thinking of it in terms of the way it’s used and who is using it.

And interestingly, the new filters tell us quite a lot about this…

Instagram Filters vs Snapchat Filters

There were accusations abound when Instagram introduced it’s ‘Instant’ feature. This tool allows users to send photos directly to friends and family and of course that could be seen as being ‘inspired’ by Snapchat at the very least.

But it seems that Snapchat has returned that favour with its choice of vernacular in recent. The fact that Snapchat has introduced ‘Filters’ is likely no coincidence!

But the two sets of filters are very different in form and function. On Instagram, the filters are designed to make your pictures appear more attractive and more arty. You can make a photo black and white, sepia or over-developed. In doing so, you can make something mundane like a cup-of-coffee look like something from a French art-house movie.

Conversely though, Snapchat’s filters make things less attractive. These filters give you a strangely shaped head, googly eyes, or a long tongue. The idea is to make people laugh and not to create any kind of art.

What This Tells Us About the Platforms

This tells us a lot about Snap Chat right away. Snap Chat’s photos are designed to be disposable and this means the tool is not designed for creating art. In turn, this means that people are much more likely to use Snapchat for communication and for more ‘throw-away’ chats. Generally, we use Snapchat to have fun and funny conversations with friends and to thereby show that we’re thinking about them.

This also means that Snapchat can appeal to a very wide audience, whereas Instagram typically appeals to very ‘artistic’ types. Snapchat is for friends having fun together, versus people trying to show their lives in artistic manners.

Snapchat is also designed to be more authentic. Whereas Instagram shows people an ‘idealized’ version of the world, Snapchat is used for conversation and immediate communication. This makes it a very personal and directly form of interaction, which is why celebrities and brands use it so commonly as a way to make their fans feel more connected and to give them privileged access.

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