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Why a Snapchat hater would use Facebook's Slingshot

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Facebook’s Slingshot hasn’t even launched yet, and already it could fix one of the biggest problems with Snapchat: Reciprocity.

I’ve never really been good at Snapchat. Most of my interaction with it is watching wide-eyed as my 20-year-old sister uses it like I do texting. There we will be, sitting in the car or perched on the couch, doing nothing, and the entire while she’s receiving Snaps and replying to them thusly.

Though she is absolutely the target demographic here, it’s not like she’s an anomaly. My own friends—most of whom are on the closer side of 30 (sorry 30-year-old friends)—use it, often. So every few months when I open the app and see the not terribly short list of messages I’ve received, I do what any horrible friend would: I open them, I view them, sometimes I laugh at them… and then I close the app, sans reply.

But Slingshot won’t allow this. Facebook’s second go at giving Snapchat some competition already seems far more able to do just that. There’s no sugar-coating it: Poke was a half-assed, flat, unoriginal clone of Snapchat. And launching it in the height of Snapchat’s heyday didn’t help but make it appear as anything but.

This time around, not only does Facebook have timing on its side. Snapchat’s recent fall from grace, involving its founder’s fratty, misogynist emails, and a court ruling that it misled users about that whole “disappearing” thing, has seen the star app fall out of favor with many of its users. But it's not just lucky timing that may see Facebook Slingshot succeed, the app possesses an interesting feature: In order to participate in Slingshot and open a message someone has sent you, you are required to send one back. You cannot play my game of open and ignore, because Slingshot is a two-way street. "I will if you will" is not something many of us are above. 

How conversation flow will work could be tricky: How do you respond… before you’ve seen a message? Given how little we know about Slingshot, it’s too early to judge.

But creating a give-and-take effect is exactly what Snapchat is missing. It’s probably why I, and surely others, don’t like participating: What if I send a Snap, which from what I’ve gathered are oftentimes of a sort of confessional nature, and I get nothing back? What if I send something I think is hilarious and creative and I get radio silence?

It’s like passing a note to your crush and seeing him read it and stuff it in his locker. This precise fear is what kept me from writing such notes, or from IMing one of the cool 8th graders. The risk wasn’t worth the reward. However, if I’d known that in order to unfold my note, or see what QTpeaches17 (real 7th grade screenname) had to say they were contractually bound to reply, then that would have completely changed the game. 

Yes, it sounds a little like baiting someone to talk to you—but I’d rather just call it incentive. “You show me yours, I’ll show you mine,” is a pretty damn effective policy. 

Photo via lovelihood/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)