Oct. 27, 2017, marked the one-year anniversary of Twitter’s announcement that it would be shutting down its subsidiary video-hosting network, Vine. I remember the day well. The internet hasn’t been the same since.
In this Vine-less world, I frequently think about those six-second reveries and miss them dearly. Vine was a seemingly-endless source of entertainment. However, it also served as a uniquely accessible location of cultural production.
Some brief background: Vine, a social network, allowed users to create six-second, looped videos. Other users could then “like” or “revine” (akin to a retweet) the videos. It began independently in 2012, but Twitter bought it within months of its inception. The content of these videos ranged from comedians offering brief impersonations, to sports highlights, to edits of existing videos with music superimposed … the list goes on.
Vine fulfilled a dual role of culture reflector and culture creator. Vines were a platform for reactions to current events (like the 2016 US Presidential race), and were sources of countless memes and fads like “Do It For the Vine,” “What are Those?” and “Suh Dude.” Vine launched the career of many a comedian (Jay Versace) and musician (Shawn Mendes).
Vine really catered to Millennials and Generation Z-ers. It was perfectly attuned to our ever-decreasing attention spans: six seconds is long enough to convey content, but short enough to provide instant gratification. Viners capitalized on this opportunity to create and share their content in a way primed for the young internet community of which they were a part.
It’s important to note that in the United States and elsewhere, creative production often comes with a price tag. There is a monetary barrier separating most art from becoming commercially successful and visible. Sometimes these categories bleed together (as in the case of some artists like Keith Haring or Jean-Michel Basquiat), but rarely.
Vine, however, provided a distinctly accessible platform. Although Vining requires a smartphone in the first place, which of course is not cheap, users could create content whenever, from wherever, relatively free of any additional cost.
With Vine, young people from around the world, coming from myriad backgrounds and walks of life, created and disseminated their audiovisual work with ease. Vine expressed a user’s creativity, talent, and ideas quickly and effectively, like an online elevator pitch.
Vine’s accessibility to marginalized voices, particularly young, black voices, was a critical part of its legacy. As journalist Jazmine Hughes writes in the New York Times, Vine became “a home for young black people, who dominated the service and established its visual language early — quick cuts, referential jokes, deep allusions.”
The platform’s accessibility, however, was a double-edged sword: the mastermind behind the Vine often got lost in the proliferation of the content.
The result is the co-option of Viners’ work, particularly black Viners’ work, by mainstream media without financial compensation or recognition. Take the case of Kayla Newman a.k.a. Peaches Monroee, who singlehandedly coined the term “on fleek” in her viral Vine from 2014.
Many of us recognize “on fleek,” but how many of us recognize the name Peaches Monroee, much less Kayla Newman? There is a long list of phrases created by black Viners that have permeated popular culture so deeply that many people may not know that they were born on Vine (more examples: “Yeet,” “Or Nah,” and “Ooo Kill Em”). The online world, no matter how accessible, is not immune to exploitation.
As of January 2017, the space Vine provided, with all its assets and issues, has disappeared due to Twitter’s financial issues. The internet still hasn’t recovered. It sounds extreme, but I think it’s true: to my knowledge, no comparable social media site has cropped up since Vine’s demise.
Some of the finest Viners have brought their talents to Instagram, but Instagram videos don’t loop as seamlessly as Vines do.
Laugh if you will, but I think Vine made the internet a better place. Vine’s death was not just the end of a Millennial craze. It was the end of an irreplaceable and invaluable cultural space. So in light of this sad anniversary, let me say with my whole heart: R.I.P. Vine. The internet misses you.