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The Latest “Lapse” in App Development

3 mins read

In the ever-evolving world of social media, it is common to receive a message from a friend inviting you to join the hottest new app. A recent example of this trend is Lapse, an app that allows users to take disposable camera-style photos and post them for their friends to see. When Lapse was released, many students rushed to download it, eager to join in on the latest trend.

Senior Aria Sokol said, “Multiple friends texted me the download link. I decided to download it because it looked kind of fun.”

However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these trends hardly ever last. Freshman Riley Shipley said, “I only downloaded it because my friends told me to, but I haven’t even used it yet.”

The buzz of a newly-released app is exciting and stimulates engagement for a while, but its time on the homescreen is typically cut short as users grow bored and the next viral app catches their attention. 

Sophomore Sophia Cole said, “When I got Lapse, I thought it seemed kind of overhyped, and I didn’t really understand the craze around it.” This pattern repeats itself and has become familiar to today’s teenagers. 

Junior Dylan Scirpo said, “The hype of almost every new app we use today just starts trickling down towards the end.” 

Students recalled previous examples of briefly popular apps like Poparazzi, a photo sharing network where you post on your friends’ profiles, and BeReal, an app that encourages users to share an authentic moment when a daily notification goes off. 

Cole said, “BeReal and Poparazzi had similar stories. I had BeReal for about a year, and Poparazzi was popular around quarantine, but they both eventually just fell off.” 

Senior Gabriella Lara said, “I stopped using BeReal because it became boring and no one really used it anymore.” The list of once-popular apps now lost to obscurity continues, with other examples including Gas, Tbh, Wishbone, and Houseparty. 

These fads contrast apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok, which have managed to remain popular. Why is it that these apps have maintained users’ attention while other social media platforms are quick to lose their hype?

On the technical side, app developers need to incorporate certain design models to create platforms that are engaging and interesting to users in the long-term. A paper from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) reported that an endless stream of content is important for engagement, and that users are likely to lose interest if they perceive scrolling to be too easy (not enough content), or become frustrated if it is too difficult (too much content).

Many new apps cannot provide enough content to keep users engaged, leading to boredom. On platforms such as YouTube and TikTok, users can scroll for hours without reaching an end. The IJERPH reported that, “Flow goes along with the feeling of time distortion and this is exactly what many developers of social media apps […] aim to achieve—a person being so immersed that he or she is forgetting about time and space while using a platform or app.”

Additionally, Lapse is invite-only, meaning that people can only use the app once they have sent the link to five friends. This technique amplifies the feeling of ‘mob mentality’: the human tendency to be influenced by the majority, causing people to feel like they must download an app because they don’t want to feel left out. 

Another reason for these apps’ short-term popularity is their tendency to be unoriginal. Expectations build when an app is widely-circulated and discussed among peers, but because these platforms hardly ever create unique material, long-term interest declines.

Freshman Leila Semichi said, “I think Snapchat and Instagram are the most original apps. Nowadays, it seems like all apps are just trying to create the ‘ultimate app’, so they end up copying each other, which makes them boring.”

Similarly, junior Anjali Polu said, “Because new apps have to compete with pre-existing ones, they copy and paste different models, such as stories and short video formats. I quickly realized that Lapse didn’t bring much to the table, so I deleted it after about a week. This makes it easier to just use social media like Instagram and Snapchat as the main sites for communication and posting because we are already familiar with them.” No one wants to cycle between ten different platforms, and so apps like Lapse further lose popularity as they have to compete with pre-existing popular apps.  

Evidently, most teenagers aren’t interested in Lapse, and in the weeks following its release, it has quickly lost its initial popularity. So the next time you get an invite to download the newest app, consider whether or not you’ll be deleting it in just a few days. 

Kitty is a junior at M-A and this is her first year of journalism. She hopes to write about events and culture at M-A and the community. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends and family, and is on the dance team.

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