DMR News

Advancing Digital Conversations

Snapchat Reevaluates “Solar System” Feature Amid Teen Anxiety Concerns

ByHuey Yee Ong

Apr 8, 2024
Snapchat Reevaluates "Solar System" Feature Amid Teen Anxiety Concerns

Snapchat Reevaluates “Solar System” Feature Amid Teen Anxiety Concerns

Snapchat has decided to disable its “Solar System” feature, a tool designed to showcase the closeness of friendships within the app by ranking friends based on interaction levels.

This decision came shortly after The Wall Street Journal highlighted concerns that the feature might be contributing to increased anxiety among teenagers.

The feature, part of the Snapchat+ subscription service, uses planets as metaphors for friendship closeness— with “Mercury” symbolizing a close friend due to frequent interactions, and “Uranus” indicating a more distant relationship.

The company acknowledged receiving feedback that, while some users appreciated knowing their standing in a friend’s “solar system,” others found it distressing to learn they weren’t as close to someone as they had hoped.

In response, Snapchat has opted not to remove the feature entirely—unlike its previous decision to remove a controversial speed filter after facing litigation over its design. Instead, it has chosen to disable the “Solar System” feature by default, allowing users the option to enable it if they wish.

The Intent Behind the Feature

Snapchat defended its decision by stating the feature was intended to provide users with more context and awareness about their relationships, arguing it was a response to user demand for insights into the dynamics of their friendships.

However, the company also conceded that the feature was not widely used, with less than 0.25% of the community engaging with it—a statistic that fails to consider its exclusivity to paid subscribers, which could skew its apparent popularity.

Beyond the Solar System, Snapchat offers other friendship-ranking systems such as:

  • Best Friends: Categorizes top contacts with emojis to indicate frequency of communication.
  • Streaks: Visually represents consecutive days of interaction, encouraging regular app usage.

How Is Snapchat Responding to Criticism of These Features?

After criticism regarding the potentially addictive and psychologically harmful nature of these features, Snapchat introduced options to pause and restore Streaks in response to concerns from parents, educators, and regulators.

While the company has expressed a commitment to mitigating the negative aspects of online communication, its development of features like the “Solar System” continues to draw scrutiny and debate over their implications for social interactions and mental health among its predominantly young user base.

By turning the “Solar System” feature off by default, Snapchat hopes to strike a balance between catering to user interest in such functionalities and addressing concerns over their potential to cause distress.

Related News:

Featured Image courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *