Snapchat becoming a playground for middle-aged affairs, experts say

Katie Morley
The adoption of social media has become “an evolving trend” in divorce, legal experts say  - REUTERS

Snapchat is being hijacked by middle-aged people, new data shows, as experts warn it is set to to become a playground for secret affairs.

The combination of Snapchat's ageing demographic and its "disposable" messaging system mean it now is an ideal tool being discovered by middle-aged people who want to hide communication with their lover from their husband or wife, experts said. 

The app lets users send each other short videos and photos, or "snaps", which are automatically deleted after a single viewing, meaning they are less likely to be discovered by a snooping partner. 

Last year the number of 45 to 54 year olds using Snapchat  in the US increased by 34 per cent from 3.4 million to 4.7 million, data from technology analyst firm eMarketeers shows. 

Snapchat users - share of social network users

By 2022 around a quarter (24 per cent) of 45 to 54-year-olds will use the app, up from just 16 per cent last year, it said.

Back in the early 2000s social networking website Friends Reunited, set up to reconnect old school friends, was blamed for the break-up of marriages and relationships as people sought out their childhood sweethearts and rekindled their romance after decades apart. 

Andrew Newbury, a partner with Hall Brown Family Law, said that adoption of social media had become “an evolving trend” in divorce, with Snapchat set to become the next big cheating platform.

He said: “What we’ve seen is something of a technological cascade with spouses in older age groups latching onto apps or social media platforms which had initially been adopted by younger men and women.

“Whilst WhatsApp has certainly become a factor, Snapchat is a relatively newer app and the pattern of adoption of this technology means that it may well feature in divorce cases in the future.

At a glance | Snapchat

"That’s particularly true, given that it is another way in which individuals conducting affairs can do so without being noticed."

He added that there had been an increase in people using "burner phones" to conduct secret conversations with their lovers. 

Meanwhile the rise in older users is expected to impact its appeal for younger users, a problem which Facebook has experienced in recent years. 

According to eMarketer’s latest forecast on social network usage, Facebook is losing younger users at an even faster pace than previously expected.This year, for the first time, less than half of US internet users ages 12 to 17 will use Facebook, it found. Facebook will also lose 2 million users under 25 this year, eMarketer estimates.  

eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson, said. “Snapchat could eventually experience more growth in older age groups, since it’s redesigning its platform to be easier to use.” 

Snapchat's logo  Credit: Chris Ratcliffe

“The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.” 

It comes just as the mobile messaging service has been simplified in a bid to make it make it more accessible to older users, causing uproar among younger fans. 

Snapchat has updated its app so that the ability to send text, video chat and create snapchat "stories" have been added. 

The most recent update has merged users' "stories", the friends list and all messages together, meaning stories are no longer chronological. 

A "discover" page has also been added, in which content from publishers and creators who are not on users' friends list can be accessed. In response to the move more than half a million Snapchat fans have signed a petition calling for Snapchat to reverse the move.