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Snapchat is turning off its controversial 'solar system' feature by default after bad press


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Image credits: Snap CEO Evan Spiegel; /TechCrunch

In less than a week The Wall Street Journal reported About how Snapchat's feature called the “solar system” adds to teen anxiety, the company said He responded By adjusting how the feature works. Today's paid subscriber rating system shows you how close you are to your friends on Snapchat by showing your location in their solar system. For example, a friend in Mercury position will be someone you communicate with often, while Uranus will be someone who is not close to you.

Of course, online chatting is not necessarily linked to real-life relationships, and such a feature can lead to hurt feelings when someone realizes that they are not as close to a friend as they thought they were.

Snap says it's received feedback that it can be nice to know you're close to someone, but it can also feel bad to know you're not as close as you'd like.

“We've heard and understand that a solar system can make this feeling worse, and we want to avoid that,” the company announced in a newsroom post on Friday.

However, instead of removing the feature, as it did with the dangerous and controversial speed filter, which was sued for “negligent design,” Snap is simply turning off the solar feature by default. Snapchat+ subscribers will still be able to turn the option on if they choose.

“We hope this strikes the right balance between providing a feature that many who use it want while avoiding inconvenience for those who don't want to use it,” the company explains.

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Turning it off by default may cause some friction, but if the feature is really in demand among teens, they'll simply search to find the setting to turn it back on.

Snap says the solar system is not very popular, noting that less than 0.25% of the community uses this option. But since it's only available to paid subscribers, the small percentage isn't surprising. The most relevant stat is the number of Snapchat+ users who have used the solar system or viewed the feature.

Although users can't tell who is as close or as far a friend as they are, discovering they're not number one has led to some difficult conversations, the Wall Street Journal reported, and even breakups.

Snap defends the feature by saying people want to know more about their friendships, and features like the solar system provide “additional awareness and context.” But in reality, it's a way to keep young people — a demographic in which social hierarchy is key — hooked on Snapchat.

The solar system feature was just one of Snapchat's friend rating systems. They also offer a special feature called “Best Friends” that puts the people you communicate with frequently at the top of your contacts list, along with a heart-shaped or smiley emoji, the Wall Street Journal noted.

Another highly debated feature is called “Streaks,” which is a tool used by Snapchat users to encourage repeat use of its app by providing a visual representation of how many consecutive days users have stayed in touch with each other on the app. After the backlash from Parents and familiesAnd legislators and regulators alike The nature of the addictive feature And psychological damage, last year Snap introduced a way to pause your streaks. It has also added a way for users to recover the lost font.

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While Snap promised in its blog post that it was “committed to mitigating the potential downsides of online communication wherever possible,” it has intentionally built features and tools that it at least leaves open to users. Lawsuits And Congress a questionif not worse.

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