Self-destruct messages are becoming the norm

There’s a lot to be said for the way a new idea or trend gathers traction once one person (or one company, in this) rolls out a new and innovative feature such as “self-destruct messages” and “disappearing messages”.

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We have been told that the internet is forever. What we say on the internet remains forever. That means we have access to information posted decades ago.

While that is useful, the other side of the coin means that all our embarrassing photo or videos, our questionable opinions, and negative status updates will stick around forever.

Disappearing messages on the uptick

There is a moral argument to be made about the merits of what we say staying around forever or disappearing after a set period of time. That is a discussion for another day.

Besides, we still can’t say for sure if disappearing messages really disappear. Surely the content, which travels from your device to its destination, leaves a trail online, through servers and whatnot.

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From Telegram and WhatsApp to dating apps and now Instagram, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. Signal gives users the option to send timed-messages which are deleted after a pre-determined period of time.

Facebook previously introduced a similar option for its Messenger platform, following on the heels of Snapchat, which has amassed a strong following among young smartphone users.

Disappearing messages as social media features

Twitter’s ‘Fleets’

Twitter recently introduced “Fleets”, tweets that go up in a puff of figurative smoke after 24 hours. The feature had already been tested in several countries, with the aim of “sharing momentary thoughts”.

Twitter product manager Sam Haveson and design director Joshua Harris explained that “those new to Twitter found fleets to be an easier way to share what’s on their mind”.

“Because they disappear from view after a day, fleets helped people feel more comfortable sharing personal and casual thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

Instagram’s ‘vanishing messages’

Instagram’s new vanishing message feature is pretty standard when it comes to disappearing messages. To activate, simply swipe up within a chat thread.

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Once you’ve done that, you’ll see a loading circle and the app will turn dark. This is to show that the vanishing message feature had been activated. To exit Vanish Mode, you just need to swipe up again.

Instagram will also notify you when the user on the other end takes a screenshot while you are in vanish mode. Facebook is still in the process of rolling out the feature, starting with the United States.

Societal consequences

What about self-destruct emails, I hear you ask. Perhaps similar to those in Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible film, along with the obligatory puff on smoke. Well, do you know who Bruce Levenson is?

Levenson is the owner of NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and controversially told his team that he would a “self-reporting” email. While the idea of self-destructing emails isn’t controversial, the content of Levenson’s mail was.

As reported by Fast Company, Levenson said in 2014 that he would forward a racist email he had sent two years prior.

The e-mail, originally sent to Atlanta Hawks President Danny Ferry, details Levenson’s belief that the Hawks’ fan base was “too heavily African-American”.

In addition, Levenson admitted that the mail was “inappropriate and offensive”, explaining that he “trivialised Hawks’ fans”.

“I trivialised our fans by making clichéd assumptions about their interests; by stereotyping their perceptions of one another. By focusing on race, I also sent the unintentional and hurtful message that our white fans are more valuable than our black fans.”

Excerpt published by USA Today.

Levenson later stepped downvas Atlanta Hawks owner. Steve Koonin joined the team as CEO while the NBA was looking for a new buyer.