What it's like to use Facebook's new Snapchat competitor that's only for high schoolers

1 1Facebook19-year-old Facebook employee Michael Sayman created the Lifestage app.

Facebook has a new app for teens only.

The app, which is called Lifestage, was quietly released last Friday afternoon in the App Store. It was designed by 19-year-old Facebook employee Michael Sayman and looks eerily similar to Snapchat at first glance.

Both Snapchat and Lifestage open to a camera and encourage you to take goofy videos, but the main difference with Lifestage is that it’s centered entirely around high schools. You have to join a school to see videos from classmates, and there’s no way to directly message someone.

Lifestage is designed for young people to “show others who they are and to find out more about the people in their school community as well as meet new people,” according to Sayman, who joined Facebook immediately after graduating high school two years ago.

Even though I’m not technically young enough to use Lifestage (the app blocks you from joining a school if say you’re older than 21), I decided to give it a try by pretending to be younger.

19-year-old Facebook product manager Michael Sayman created Lifestage as a way to explore how Generation Z wants to communicate through social media.

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Facebook declined to make Sayman available for an interview with Business Insider, but the young employee did explain why Lifestage was created in a post on his personal Facebook page last week.

'Lifestage looks back at the days of Facebook from 2004 and explores what can be done if we went back and turned the crank all the way forward to 2016 with video-first,' he wrote.

'Back in 2004, Facebook was all about 'who I am,'' according to Sayman. 'Today as Facebook has grown into so much more, we see the opportunity to explore that concept of 'who I am' once again, but for Generation Z in 2016.'

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Lifestage is strictly intended for high schoolers. You have to enter your age when you first login, and if you're under 21 years old you won't be able to add a school you belong to.

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Unlike Snapchat, everything you share on Lifestage is viewable by anyone who is part of your school's group. There's no private messaging. It's basically a combination of Snapchat Stories and Yik Yak.

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Lifestage is clearly intended to supplement other social networks. The app prompts you to add your Instagram and Snapchat handles to your profile.

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The way you use Lifestage is with video clips and themed frames called 'video fields.'

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You tap and hold on the screen to record or double tap to flip cameras, just like Snapchat.

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The app asked me to make a few videos to get started, including one for the 'Dislike' frame. I wasn't sure what to shoot so I just took a short video of the phone next to my desk. (I do hate telephones.)

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There's no guided tutorial when you first use Lifestage, so the app can be a little confusing to learn. I wasn't sure what all of these 'Fields' were for at first.

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It turns out that whichever field you tap has a corresponding frame you can add to your videos. You swipe up from the camera to access these frames.

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Since Lifestage only requires a phone number to create an account and not a Facebook account, you can easily lie about your age. This is what the app told me when I said I was 124 years old:

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I created another account and said I was 18. Then I was able to add a nearby high school.

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You can only add one high school in Lifestage and can't change it without creating a new account.

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Bummer! At least 20 people at a particular high school have to be using Lifestage for you to be able to watch and add videos. The one I added had no one else using the app yet.

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That's probably why Facebook heavily prompts you to share the app with friends.

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Here's what it looks like when other people are using Lifestage.

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You tap on each account to watch their videos. Like Snapchat, people have different emojis next to their names and you can see how many times your videos have been watched in the past 24 hours. If you know someone's account handle, you can search for it to watch videos they have posted.

I'm well out of high school and obviously not the ideal Lifestage user, but after trying the app I was left puzzled by why anyone would want to use it. Other social networks (particularly Snapchat) already do what Lifestage does along with much more.

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Other people are confused too. The app has only been out for a few days, but it already has an average rating of two stars in the App Store.

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