Here's proof that Snapchat isn't a 'sexting' app

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Snapchat in Numbers

When Snapchat launched a few years ago, it was immediately hailed by the press — including this publication — as a sexting app.

To be sure, it's not entirely clear that people were primarily using it as such. And since then, Snapchat has rehabilitated its image — now, it's more associated as a messaging service geared towards millennials than anything else.

I've been writing about Snapchat at Business Insider for about a year. I use it as a primary or secondary mode of communication with a bunch of my friends, and I'm pretty bullish on the service (though I'm more skeptical about how it'll make money).

I noticed a spike in the number of people who started following me on Snapchat last year around the time I started writing about the service — I went from having a couple friends add me every week to having 50 to 100 people add me every day. I could only conclude they saw my username in my BI stories and had added me.

I didn't do anything with these random people — I had my settings private, so the only people who could see my stories or send me snaps were people I had added back. In other words, these individuals were basically queued up waiting for me to let them send me snaps and look at my Snapchat Stories.

Finally, about 6 weeks ago, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I wondered how many people would view my rather mundane Snapchat Stories if I let them.

So I changed my privacy settings. I went from having a dozen or two people looking at my stories ...

snapchat hacksGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

... To having more than a thousand people looking at my stories. (Still, it's nothing compared to the nearly 2 million people who look at DJ Khaled's snaps.)

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

Then I decided to open up my Snaps, to let anyone Snap me. Almost immediately, I received an influx of dozens of unread Snaps from random people. I was a little queasy. Would I regret this? Would I receive a selection of unprompted NSFW pictures? Only time would tell.

Six weeks later, here are my findings:

  • I'm pleasantly surprised that I haven't received a single explicit picture from the thousands of people who sent me Snaps. Instead, most of the snaps I receive appear to come from teens who have added me to a mass list of people they send silly selfies and videos to.
  • I have gotten a few snaps from people asking who I am (In my opinion, the better question is who are they? I didn't add any of them first) and people identifying me as a journalist (so they remembered why they had added me, I guess).
  • I have blocked a few followers for sending spammy messages and being annoying, but it's still a far different story than what happened to me when I opened up my Twitter DMs last year.

And here's a selection of Snaps I've received. They range from hilarious to bizarre.

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

snapchatGetty Images/Clemens Bilan

Here's what I've learned about Snapchat's users after receiving thousands of Snaps from hundreds of users (note that I didn't reply to a single Snap — these were sent to me unprompted):

  • Teens are absolutely using Snapchat, but they're not the only ones. I got lots of Snaps from older users — that is, people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, based on their appearances. So Snapchat appears to be ever so slightly expanding outside of their millennial userbase.
  • Selfies abound. About 80% of the Snaps I got were selfies with overlaid text. Others included black background with drawing or writing on top, Snaps of people's meals or surroundings, and lots of text messages that said "Hi" or "Hello."
  • No explicit pictures. I estimate I've received close to 2,200 Snaps from random people I don't know over the past six weeks, and not one of them sent me an explicit, NSFW picture, much to my relief. Do I believe this still happens on the platform? Absolutely. But it says something that I, a 23-year-old woman, can put my username out there for the world to see, and not get one unwanted explicit picture in response.
  • People Snap early in the morning and late at night. I would wake up to a round of "going to class" or "good morning" Snaps, and at night I'd see a bunch crop up again between 6 and 9 pm.

When I opened up my Twitter DMs in 2015, I received a wide range of straight-up garbage in my direct messages. This includes random "hellos" from dozens of people who didn't follow me or even speak the same language as me; NSFW messages from men too inappropriate to reprint here; and so, so many PR pitches. I promptly closed up my DMs after a month. There was no good that came out of opening up the ability to private message me to the public.

Harassment is an ongoing issue Twitter faces. You don't hear about the same thing happening on Snapchat. Here's my theory for why.

  • It's a lot harder to be anonymous on Snapchat. Snapchat has to be linked to your phone number, which increases accountability. It's much easier to make a throwaway or fake account on Twitter, which just requires email verification.
  • It's much harder to find and discover users on Snapchat. This is both a benefit of Snapchat in terms of privacy, and a detriment in terms of user engagement, in my opinion. On Snapchat, you find your friends by knowing their username, scanning their personalized QR codes, or finding them via phone number. On Twitter, you just have to search for someone's name — even if you're not logged in. This is well and good in terms of privacy, but if you want to find the most popular Snapchat users or look up new people to follow, you're SOL.

At the same time, I'm not stupid. I acknowledge that abuse can occur on any platform, including Snapchat. If I ever have to report an account for harassment, I'll be sure to note what kind of response I receive from the company.

But right now, I have no regrets about opening up my Snapchat account to everyone. I've learned a lot about user behavior by observing what types of Snaps one user sends another seemingly random user. It's confirmed my belief that Snapchat is increasingly popular with all types of people, all over the world.

NOW WATCH: Two simple ways to make your Snapchat captions longer

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SEE ALSO: The ultimate guide on how to use Snapchat, explained by a 23-year-old

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Here's proof that Snapchat isn't a 'sexting' app
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 02: M2 Pocket Phone, manufactured by Excell Communications. Displayed with its headphones, leather protective case and user guide, the phone weighs approximately 0.75 kg. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 02: Rabbit telepoint telephone by Hutchison Personal Communications Ltd, together with park and charge unit. Size of telephone is 400mm by 350mm by 100mm and weighs approximately 3kg. Rabbit was a British location-specific (Telepoint) telephone service backed by Hutchison, who later went on to create the Orange GSM mobile network. The Rabbit network was the best-known of four such services introduced in the 1980's, the others being Phonepoint, Mercury Callpoint and Zonephone. Although Hutchison had been issued a licence for Rabbit in 1989 it took until May 1992 before the service was launched. Telepoint services such as Rabbit allowed subscribers to carry specially designed (CT2) home phone handsets with them and make outgoing calls whenever they were within 100 metres of a Rabbit transmitter. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 08: Mobile cellular telephone model M200 by Siemens AG, with one2one branding, less battery pack, 1991-2000 Dimensions: 190 by 65 by 35mm, weighing approximately 0.5kg. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 02: Mobile cellular telephone, mobile Phone manufactured by Motorola, weighing approximately 0.75 kg. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 02: The Vodac, by Vodaphone was produced between 1991-2000 and weighed approximately 0.5 kg. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - AUGUST 08: Mobile cellular telephone model CM-H333 by Sony sitting in its charging stand. Dimensions: 185 by 55 by 70mm and weighing approximately 0.5 kg (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 09: The Motorola company was founded by Paul V Galvin as the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation, in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928. In the 1930s the company began promoting portable car radios under the brand name �Motorola� (a word suggesting sound in motion), and the company name was changed to Motorola Inc in 1947. By the end of the 1980s, Motorola had become the biggest worldwide supplier of cellular telephones. When it was launched in 1996, the pocket-sized StarTAC, at just 93g (3.1 ounces), was the world�s smallest phone and the first to operate continuously with dual detachable batteries. This example was manufactured by Motorola Inc in the United States. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 20: Taking mobile phones apart by hand and sorting the pieces for recycling is expensive. This phone was designed by Joseph Chiodo, a researcher at Brunel University in Surrey, to 'recycle' itself. It is made from special metals and plastics which have 'memories' of their original shape. When heated up, they lose their current form and revert to the shape they remember: different parts are triggered to change shape at different temperatures. The phone then �pops� apart, ready for recycling. Pieces can be picked out for reuse and the parts containing toxins can be separated. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
JAPAN - FEBRUARY 15: Launched on the 1st September 2000, the Nokia 3310 featured advanced messaging, personalisation with Xpress-on covers and screensavers, vibra feature, time management functions, voice dialling, picture messaging, predictive text input and games. It also introduced �mobile chat� using the Nokia Friends-Talk service, which allows users to have conversations using SMS (Short Message Service). This is a globally accepted wireless service that enables the transmission of messages between mobile users and external systems such as e-mail, paging, and voice-mail. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE: Shares order are displayed on the screen of mobile phone which uses the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) services for e-trading in a demonstration at the launching of Asia Pacific's first Mobile E-Trading on WAP in Singapore 09 March, 2000. Singapore's leading retail stockbroking firms, Ong & Company Partners, signed an agreement in partnership with SingTel Mobile for for the co-marketing in the e-trading service called iROAM, the first transactional service of its kind to utilize the WAP platform in the Asia-Pacific region. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Roslan RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE: Shown is Sendo International's Z100 multimedia smartphone at a news conference during the GSM World Congress in Cannes, France February 21, 2001. The Z100 phone features a color screen and runs on the Microsoft smartphone platform. The phone also features Microsoft's Mobile Explorer for the Internet, Mobile Outlook, a Windows Media player and USB connectivity. The phone will be on the market in the autumn of 2001. AFP PHOTO/JEFF CHRISTENSEN (Photo credit should read JEFF CHRISTENSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young girls using mobile phones. (Photo by Jeff Overs/BBC News & Current Affairs via Getty Images)
A cell phone with the Remo software is held in an office in New York Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003. The Remo software allows the phone to access information from your computer.(AP Photo)
SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA: A South Korean model displays a LG Electronic new DMB (digital multimedia broadcasting) mobile phone handsets which can show television broadcasts real time during an exhibition in Seoul on 15 November 2004. The South Korean electronics firm claimed the handsets were the world's first ground-wave DMB mobile phone. AFP PHOTO/WANG JUN-YOUNG (Photo credit should read WANG JUN-YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)
CellphoneCamera-Sept. 20, 2005-Photo Illustration of cell phone camera use. As camera phones grow more common, expect to see more incidents such as the man facing mischief and harassment charges after a suspect was caught taking lewd photos of little girls in a Toronto grocery store. Already there is a term for such behaviour: 'upskirting' and 'downblousing,' (pictures being taken down womens tops) and web sites devoted to the practice. (Photo by Tannis Toohey/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: In this photo illustration the Twitter website is displayed on a mobile phone on July 6, 2009 in London. The social network site started in 2006 in California as a sideline project, but has grown into a global brand becoming one of the fastest growing phenomenas of the Internet. (Photo Illustration by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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BERLIN - NOVEMBER 09: A young man checks out an Apple iPhone at a T-Mobile shop on the first day the mobile phone went on sale November 9, 2007 in Berlin, Germany. T-Mobile has the exclusive conract to sell the iPhone in Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) several mobile phones on advertising folders - 01.11.2008 (Photo by wolterfoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
SPAIN - DECEMBER 02: A consumer holds Nokia's new handset the N97, during the Nokia World 08 event in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008. Nokia Oyj, the world?s biggest maker of mobile phones, unveiled a new handset featuring a touch screen and full keyboard to challenge Apple Inc.?s iPhone and Research In Motion Ltd.?s BlackBerry devices. (Photo by Xabier Mikel Laburu/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Israeli people wait to purchase the new iPhone 3Gs at an Apple store on December 9, 2009 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Hundreds of people lined up at the Apple Store in Tel Aviv to be the first to purchase Apple's new iPhone 3Gs which is faster than the previous iPhone 3G and has several new features. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Vertu Ascent mobile handsets are seen after assembly at Nokia Oyj's Vertu luxury phone division in Church Crookham, U.K., on Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. Vertu, started by Nokia Oyj's then-chief designer Frank Nuovo in 1998, has sold more than 300,000 phones in the last decade and seen 'high double-digit sales growth' since the start of 2010, President Perry Oosting said. Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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