From Facebook to Snapchat: How social media has changed us

The experience of reality TV is magnified in Snapchat

Khaled Albaih
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As a “social media” artist (maybe to define it better, cartoonist), I spend most of my time on social media being anti-social on my phone. I have been non-stop replying, “liking” and “favorite-ing” since my Facebook page received the attention of online and offline activists and risen in popularity alongside with the Arab Spring revolutions.

What is very significant for me is “existing” where new and mainly younger audiences and trends emigrate. I have noticed that with each new app youth gravitate towards, the shorter their attention span becomes. From the limitless word count of blogs and Facebook, to the 140 characters of Twitter, to Instagram’s infinite flow of images with secondary captions, to finally the self-destructive 10-seconds cap of Snapchat.


I consider myself a member of the first Internet generation, which was curious about the world, especially given the difficulty of getting visas to experience it firsthand. Asking A/S/L in chatrooms cured our curiosity, and allowed us to meet people from all corners of the world.

By the mid ‘90s we all had our favorite forums and blogs, where we discussed and shared our talents and opinions. Then, there were several shots at networking websites before ultimately, Facebook emerged and the rest was history.

‘Free’ space

Unfortunately, even after the Arab Spring, social media remains to be the only ‘free’ space to discuss current issues in the region. As an artist who exists almost exclusively online, the comments section becomes a very important part of my artistic experience. After posting a cartoon, a conversation starts and I am able to engage with the commentators and witness them engaging among themselves. This is an essential part of the online experience.

-Did you see my last Facebook post?! -I don’t use FB, it’s boring and the whole family is on it.

-A chat with my 22 year old sister in-law

Snapchat is great because it combines the experience of private messaging platforms like Whatsapp with the benefits of public forms of social media, which allow you to publish to wider audiences. With all that in mind, I believe it has failed to start a public conversation with my posts, because with no comments section and no public replies and reposting abilities you simply can’t.

I suppose Snapchat is more attractive for a generation that grew up watching reality TV, a passive experience of making people famous by “following” these people’s lives without participating or easily stating an opinion that can be made public. The experience of reality TV is magnified in Snapchat.

I don’t want to rush to make a judgment, since all social media platforms have gone through maturing periods. Facebook went from a personal and private space with only a few friends to becoming a news feed. Twitter went from a place to stalk your favorite celebrity to a technology that helped establish the term citizen journalism. Instagram also morphed from “food porn” to raising the question: can everyone be a photographer?

I’m looking forward to seeing how Snapchat matures with time. But for now, I believe Snapchat has put an end to the “social” in social media. Still, this can also be described as a new approach to being “social” (or anti-social) in the future.

Khaled Albaih is a Sudanese artist and political cartoonist that was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1980. He currently lives and works in Doha, Qatar, where he has been based since 1990. He publishes his cartoons on social media under “Khartoon!,” a word play on cartoon and Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. Albaih has published his cartoons widely in international publications including The Atlantic, PRI, and NPR, in addition to his published written social and political commentary in publications such as The Guardian and Al Jazeera. His work has been exhibited in global exhibitions. He tweets @khalidalbaih

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