In all previous eras, the internet was your permanent record. So people did one of two things. They either ignored the permanency and posted incriminating content that alienated friends and sent employers and insurers running for the hills. This week's poster child is Sorority Psycho Rebecca Martinson. Or, people understood the permanent nature of the web and therefore created a white-washed version of their digital life. I mean, is your Facebook page a true representation of your life? Mine sure isn't; notice there are no photos of my bald spot.
Snapchat changed this. Snapchat is a perfect mechanism for ephemeral and real expressions of oneself. Take a silly photo, write a stupid caption and don't worry because it will be erased in seconds. People now have a safe space to express themselves freely over the web without harming their permanent record.
I'm convinced we are at the dawn of the Ephemeral Era because the scion of a previous era is in denial. On The Colbert Report, Eric Schmidt of Google concluded his interview with this phrase: "There is no delete button." Eric hopes not because his company's bread and butter is indexing all of the worlds content. But people want a delete button and Snapchat has given them that.