If you haven’t yet watched the UW Madison Snapchat story that unfolded last week, I highly suggest it. Dubbed “better than a movie”, it is by far the most intriguing use of social media I have ever seen and the topic of my final blog post.
In my opinion, this snapstory is a microcosm for #IS6621. As far as social media applications go, this love story embodies the fluidity, spontaneity and creativity that we have come to expect. This is why social media, and Snapchat in particular, deserves all the hype we have been giving it over the past semester. So before you read on, watch the magic (and love) unfold:
The entire UW Madison campus got behind this social media phenomenon. At first, “lonely guys” and “girls” began to imitate Vikings fan and Mystery Girl. But then, the students began to encourage the love birds to find each other: “We are expecting an update tomorrow on the mystery girl. We need to know!”
And then there was the motivational speech: “You can sit right there and do your project, or you can get your a** up and you can find that girl, man. She’s looking for you!”
I can only imagine how quickly the news of the story spread throughout campus and how the students must have been compulsively checking for new posts, as one girl proudly states, “Sitting here refreshing my Snapchat every thirty seconds just to see updates from Vikings fan and Memorial Library girl. Hope you guys meet up tonight!”
Something that struck me while watching this unfold after the fact was that this could never happen on Boston College’s campus. The sheer size of UW Madison enabled this social media anomaly to occur. A school of about 44,000 people almost ensured that Vikings fan and Mystery Girl would not have mutual friends. In comparison to BC’s relatively small student body, there most likely would have been at least one mutual friend who could have connected the two.
Another fascinating thing about this snap story is that organically, people started reaching out to help. Students were reporting on Mystery Girl’s location in real time and announcing when Vikings Fan arrived at said location. The wisdom of the crowd was able to make up for the fact that not one person knew both potential love birds.
Let us not forget that this could not have happened without Snapchat playing matchmaker, nor could it have happened without their now hallmark feature of location-based narratives. The curator of the UW Madison story enabled this social media sensation and then capitalized on its virality. Magnifying the hype, he or she (the curator, like Memorial Library Girl, is a mystery) created filters to overlay on the story submissions, with some saying “Help Vikings fan find Mystery Girl” and even annotating Mystery Girl’s location at The KK on the videos.
Snapchat did play a role in promoting the popularity of the video in real time by curating the story and adding the filters, but the app also manufactured some of the virality after the fact. In the day after the events unfolded life, Snapchat promoted it to the “live” section afterwards–I know this because it appeared in my Snapchat. Usually reserved for large-scale events like the Oscars’ Red Carpet or Met Gala, Snapchat leveraged the viral halo of the video in the 24 hours after it happened. So not only did it go viral on the massive 40,000+ campus of UW Madison, but it also went viral on the app itself. If it was appearing on mine and my friends’ “live” sections, I can assume it appeared on at least every college students’ Snapchat story throughout the country. Now that’s a whole lot of manufactured virality.
New Use Cases
At the end of last class, we talked about the evolution of the internet and its extension to new use cases. Snapchat has only been around for about a fraction of the time that the internet has, yet new use cases are already being created. Who would have ever thought that two people would seek each other out by way of a snapstory? And successfully find each other, no less.
To the collective delight of the Snapchat world, the UW Madison snapstory finally captured their reunion.
In an unprecedented turn of events, Snapchat took the place of Tinder and Bumble overnight: “I just woke up for class and found out that they found each other, and it was better than any dream I could possibly have.”
After spending the semester theorizing about social media’s capacity to change the world for better or worse, I am left with what I can describe as hope. The phenomenon of the UW Madison Love Story embodies the optimism I have for social media in the years or even months to come. In the midst of our conversations about the ability of Snapchat to monetize, or the looming possibility of increased advertising in the app, we at times forgot about the reason why Snapchat and social media has become what it is today: our desire for connection.
Just when we think we know what is coming next, a love story unfolds on Snapchat to stop us in our tracks. It’s humbling to know that there will always be greater possibilities for social media than we can even conceive. We should refrain from trying to predict the unpredictable and enjoy social media while we can, before the story gets rewritten. I, for one, am going to enjoy the ride.
PS: I have insider information that the pair was seen together as recently as this past weekend at a UW Madison party. Vikings fan and Mystery Girl, we’re rooting for you!
Further reading on the Love Story: