March 17, 2020
Just how far are you willing to go to show your life through social media? At what rate do you share your life through Snapchat stories, Instagram images and tweets? As this controversial topic becomes more prevalent, the addition of the “Snap Map” to the social networking app Snapchat in 2017 has further extended the social media discussion and is damaging mental health.
The Snap Map feature on Snapchat is a location tracker built directly into the app. Users can choose if they want their location to be shown to their entire friend list, to specific friends or to have it set to Ghost Mode, which means that their location is not shared at all. Locations are updated not in the background, but every time a user opens the app. Snapchat adds, “You can set your Status at locations on the Snap Map and choose a Bitmoji to show your activity.” While on the surface this seems like a good way to inform your friends of what you’re up to, the mental health issues that result beg to differ.
First, let me introduce you to the slightly horrifying account of Shelby Smith. As a senior in high school at 18 years old, Shelby Smith decided to join in on the newest trend — Tinder. Upon harmless messages with a match, she added him on Snapchat.
“I added a guy on Snapchat and he immediately texted me my exact address and a Google Maps picture of my house, which was terrifying,” Smith said.
While Snap Map locations may seem like a simple way to show friends your whereabouts at first, instances like these are a prime example of how easy it is for anyone to find you, wherever you might be.
Smith explained how her opinion of Snapchat changed after this incident, saying, “I turned my location off immediately after that happened for obvious reasons. No one should be able to so clearly see where I live down to the exact address. Personally, I don’t see why there’s any need for a ‘Snap Map.’ I think it opens the door for creepy men to give your snap on a whim to be able to access way too much information about you.”
As it turns out, not every “friend” on Snapchat is someone you can trust.
Along with the possibility of internet friends or people you don’t know well stalking you, domestic violence is a significant consequence of Snap Map tracking. If someone’s Snap Map location is on, their friends can view the last time they had the app open. I will openly admit to keeping watch of Snap Map while out at the bars just to know who I might see, which interferes with the goals of going out: destressing and having a good time. Not only does it affect nights out at the bars, but it can become routine to check Snap Map throughout an entire day. The mental control this has on an individual soon becomes normal, and without even realizing it, people suffer from having constant access to the location of friends, family, partners and exes.
It very quickly becomes an issue of domestic violence, too.
The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence says, “Domestic violence is any behavior the purpose of which is to gain power and control over a spouse, partner, girl/boyfriend or intimate family member. Abuse is a learned behavior; it is not caused by anger, mental problems, drugs or alcohol, or other common excuses.”
Many social media platforms are capable of giving unhealthy control to one person in a relationship. Snap Map takes this to a new level, providing people with others’ location when they never asked for it. There’s nothing you can do on the app about seeing a friend’s location unless you remove them entirely. This makes it impossible for people who have fallen routine to checking their contact’s locations to ignore their locations. With no control over this feature paired with the mental hold it seems to take over certain individuals, domestic violence has the power to dominate.
For those that simply like to be seen, it’s important to consider the extent to which people want to see you. How can this pressure to be acknowledged be balanced with the precaution to be safe? Using an app like Find my Friends or Life 360 ensures that the people with which you share your location are in mutual agreement to share theirs. Especially in the modern world of online dating and embarking in Ubers with unknown drivers, location tracking can save lives. These alternative resources can implement safety without consuming and destroying mental health. With the negative mental health effects, is having your Snap Map location turned on worth it? The ways in which Snapchat’s Snap Map can result in domestic violence cannot be ignored.
Rachel Gignac is a junior professional writing major with a focus in editing and publishing and a minor in graphic design. Her enthusiasm for editing can be recognized in her work as a content editor for the official Michigan State yearbook, the Red Cedar Log. Outside of work and school, she fulfills her love for art and photography through traveling and crossing off as many countries of her list as she can.