Social Media app Snapchat has released a new map feature to users around the world, and although criticised for fears of stalking, bullying and the like, it’s also a great place for discovery.

For those who don’t know, Snapchat allows you to send photos and videos to friends, with a limit of how long people can view it for, ranging from 1 second, to no limit at all. It’s a fun app, which also enables you to add filters to photos and video.

The addition of the map feature has come with criticism that some people may use it to stalk or bully others, and some are concerned about it revealing your location. And although that may be the case for some people, I personally think it’s a great way to discover new places, people, things.

Firstly, you can “ghost” yourself on the map. (I.e you don’t reveal your location, but you can use the map feature). You’ll be asked all of the appropriate questions when you first get to the map, which is itself a simple step – just pinch the screen on camera mode, and the map will appear.

Since the map was updated on my phone yesterday, I’ve spent some time travelling to parts of the UK I’ve never been too, and countries I’ve always wanted to visit. The joy with Snapchat is, most of the videos and photos are only brief, meaning you don’t have to sit through endless amounts of waffle or crap to get to the good bits; and by and large most of what I’ve seen has been of some interest, or has looked interesting.

I’ve seen the sights of Australia, gone to a food festival in the Cotswolds, checked out the nightclub scene in Newcastle, and even seen inside some of the colleges here in Oxford, that I wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to visit myself (They’re more for tourists, who appear to LOVE Snapchat).

Of course, this feature isn’t unique to Snapchat. Periscope, a live video streaming app, has a map feature that’s quite similar to Snapchat’s, the only difference being you watch entire videos, most of which take forever to get to the point of what they’re trying to show you, or simply aren’t interesting.

Snapchat Maps has a similar feel to that of Insta stories, which are also short, succinct photos and videos, only available to view for 24hrs before they’re cleared.

My only criticism of the new Snapchat maps, is the hotspots you click on to view snaps from that area. You’ll probably notice that some that are close together, or even a little further apart, will sometimes crossover what you see. You’ll see a snap on one hotspot from one street, then click another to find the same snap, plus some additions. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in the next update.

As for safety concerns, if you don’t want to identify yourself on the map, make sure you select the “ghost” option when you open the map function up for the first time. Your snaps shouldn’t appear on the map, and only your friends can see them via the “My Story” function, or specific friends who you send the snaps too.

And as for the stalking/bullying concerns, surely that’s something the internet in general needs to sort out, because no matter what website you visit, or what social media account you’re on, you’ll most likely be prone to some kind of bullying or trolling. It’s wrong, it shouldn’t happen, because we should all be able to get along, but it’s for sites and apps like Snapchat to monitor and stamp out immediately if they spot anything, or anything is reported to them.

Be aware, be safe, but have fun and discover. I’m off to explore things in America, I hear there are some good views in San Francisco.

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