Snapchat Discover, Muscle Memory, and Disruption in Mobile

Most of us, unfortunately, have a before-bed social media ritual. Mine looks something like this:

Scroll through Facebook - sign out of Facebook - look at Buzzfeed’s top posts of the week - turn off laptop - grab phone - glance at Twitter - check snapchat - read through “funny” accounts on Instagram - set my alarms - sleep.

The other day, I realized that not only do I have a Social Media ritual; my movements on different social media apps have become routine.

I’ve built muscle memory for mobile.

Snapchat is a lot of tapping: tap hamburger icon on bottom right of screen; tap my story to see whose viewed it; scroll to stories; tap on whatever I find interesting; tap camera button; tap square button on bottom left of camera screen. Tap, tap, tap.

Tapping is so ingrained into my Snapchat memory that I tap to check if anyone’s viewed my Snapchat story even when I haven’t posted one. If anything, my muscle memory reminds me that maybe I should post something. Views feel food.

Although tapping is easily Snapchat’s most distinctive feature, it does offer other movements, including horizontal and vertical scrolls.

Horizontal scroll allows you to move from one screen to another. Scroll up to arrive at your settings screen and can scroll up to chat when viewing a story.

Until recently, vertical scrolling and horizontal scrolling existed in only a few places on Snapchat besides Discover.

Neither vertical nor horizontal scrolling feels native to my Snapchat muscle memory. This is probably why I prefer Snapchat Live to Snapchat Discover. I know how to “tap” through Snapchat Live, but scrolling horizontally and vertically on Snapchat Discover feels odd. These movements are disruptive to my muscle memory. Instead of caring enough to learn new movements, I quickly get rid of a screen my muscle memory doesn’t understand.

I’d hypothesize that Snapchat Discover is more popular with newer users of Snapchat than it is with older users, mostly because newer uses have yet to solidify their Snapchat muscle memories.

And, I wouldn’t be surprised if Snapchat’s Discover feature picks up because vertical scroll is being introduced to its more popular features.

When we think about introducing new features to our mobile apps, not only do we have to consider what kind of content feels native to an app, we need to think about what kind of movements feel native to an app.

Plz don’t disrupt my muscle memory. And if you must, at least ease me into it.