Snapchat is a mobile application known as a form of "ephemeral social media", which are platforms displaying shared content for a brief period. "On the surface, many people view Snapchat as the 'sexting app'," said study's lead author Joseph Bayer.

"But instead, we found that Snapchat is typically being used to communicate spontaneously with close friends in a new and often more enjoyable way," he added.

Bayer and colleagues also investigated what aspects of Snapchat use might cause the increased emotional reward. Their findings suggest that reduced "self-presentational" concerns are a major reason, such as not worrying if shared pictures seem ugly or conceited.

"Since Facebook has become a space for sharing crafted big moments such as babies, graduations and birthdays, Snapchat seems to provide users with a distinct space for sharing the small moments," said Bayer.

The researchers recruited 154 college students who used smartphones. The study used "experience sampling" which measures how people think, feel and behave moment-to-moment in their daily lives - to assess the participants' well-being by texting them at random times six times a day for two weeks.

Participants also reported focusing more attention on Snapchat messages than archived content on platforms like Facebook, which may contribute to the increased emotional reward.

"If ephemeral social media are garnering a more concentrated form of attention, then Snapchat may also stand out from other social media to advertisers," Bayer said.

Bayer said that participants viewed Snapchat as similar to face-to-face conversations because they were mundane, not recorded and typically occurred with close relationships. The study appeared online in the journal Information, Communication & Society.