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May 6, 2024
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Snapchat Turns off Controversial ‘Solar System’ Feature

Solar System feature on Snapchat

A new Snapchat feature called ‘Solar System‘, part of its subscription service Snapchat+, allows users to see their position within their friends’ digital circles. Snapchat Plus is a premium subscription service priced at $4 a month. From this subscribers gain the ability to gauge their standing with individual friends, determined by the frequency of communication and snaps sends each other. This evaluation is represented metaphorically through a solar system analogy: being likened to Mercury suggests proximity to the friend while being compared to Uranus implies a less favorable connection.

Snapchat offers various methods to identify your top friends. One such method is the ‘Best Friends’ feature, highlighting your favorite contacts by placing an emoji next to their names.

Snapchat Planets Order - Solar System

Another widely used method is the Snap Streaks feature, which incentivizes users to engage with the app regularly by visually displaying the number of consecutive days they’ve communicated with a contact. However, like the Solar System feature, Streaks also encountered criticism, leading the app to introduce an option for users to pause it.

Also Read – How To Contact Snapchat Streak Customer Support

Why did Snapchat Turn off the Solar System feature?

For many teens, whose social connections hold immense importance, this feature is contributing to heightened anxiety. So now Snapchat is modifying its exclusive subscriber feature, the Friendship Solar System, after reports indicating its adverse effects on younger users.

The Solar System feature on Snapchat, accessible solely to Snapchat+ subscribers, visualizes users’ most frequent communication partners through a planetary display.

As per WSJ“The young adults I spoke to with paid accounts said they’ve seen friendships splinter and young love wither due to the knowledge that someone else ranks higher on the app. Some say teens have signed up for Snapchat+ just to check their status with a crush.”

In March 2024, 15-year-old Callie Schietinger, residing in Yorktown, NY, shared that her relationship with her boyfriend faced challenges upon discovering his position as Neptune in her Snapchat solar system. Schietinger recounted her boyfriend’s frustration upon learning that a male friend held the Mercury position. 

“A lot of kids my age have trouble differentiating best friends on Snapchat from actual best friends in real life,” Schietinger told the Wall Street Journal.

It might seem a bit irrational, an overreaction to a simple feature within an app. However, considering our own experiences as teenagers, it’s understandable that many would likely have at least been curious about the same feature.

Given this perspective, it’s reasonable for Snap to downgrade the feature to an opt-in status. Yet, in truth, it appears they should consider eliminating it, as it doesn’t seem particularly significant either way. After all, it wasn’t part of the app until last year, and it’s unlikely to be a major driver of new sign-ups for Snapchat+. So, why not just remove it entirely?

Snap reports receiving “overwhelmingly positive feedback” about the feature, utilized by fewer than 0.25% of Snap users daily. However, concerns have been raised regarding the unintended creation of a ranking system within friend circles. More than 20 million teens use this photo-sharing app in the US, though most don’t pay for Snapchat+.

Recognizing the potential for negative experiences, Snap has announced plans to convert the Solar System display into an opt-in feature, rather than automatically presenting it to Snapchat+ users.

As explained by Snap:

“We understand that even though it can feel good to know you are close to someone, it can also feel bad to know that you aren’t as close to a friend as you’d like to be. We’ve heard and understand that the Solar System can make that feeling worse, and we want to avoid that, so we’re going to turn the Solar System feature off by default so that Snapchat+ subscribers who want more friendship insights can proactively turn it on, and those who don’t will have to see it.”

However, rather than completely removing the feature, as it did with the dangerous and controversial speed filter, for which it faced a lawsuit over “negligent design,” Snap is opting to deactivate the Solar System feature by default. Snapchat+ subscribers will retain the ability to enable the feature if they wish.

“We hope this decision strikes the right balance by offering a feature desired by many users, while also respecting the preferences of those who choose not to utilize it,” the company explains.

Although setting it to inactive by default may introduce some resistance, if the feature is already sought after by teens, they may simply navigate to the settings to reactivate it.

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