Sam Rosenberg: A eulogy for Vine

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 2:29pm

On October 27, Twitter announced that they would be discontinuing one of its most popular and universal apps: Vine. While the company said that they will keep existing Vine videos for archival purposes, users will no longer be able to create six-second looped clips. For those who don’t use Vine or are not particularly familiar with the app, this may not be relevant news at all. But for those who do use it, the death of Vine is an immense tragedy.

Since that fateful announcement, Vine users have been mourning the loss of the app. To commemorate Vine’s legacy, popular Viners, such as chloe lmao (920.4k followers) have, generated specialized remakes of the Vines that made them viral. They’re also changing their usernames to their Instagram and Twitter accounts, hoping that their followers will continue to interact with them, post-Vine mortem. Other popular Viners, like leathershirts (311.3k followers), GETTER (396k followers) and J. Cyrus (1.5 million followers) showcased their sense of dread for Vine’s ending with comically dark clips. Users have also created mini montages of viral Vines and reposted old viral Vines for nostalgia’s sake.

It’s strange and sad to think that an app that has given so much joy to so many people will soon be gone. But what was it about Vine that made it so special? Was it having the ability to produce memes at a remarkably rapid pace? Or was it the physical and virtual community it formed among the app’s active content creators?   

Despite all of its flaws and detractors, Vine possesses a myriad of wonderful qualities. During its first month of activity in January 2013, BBC News called Vine “mesmerizing” and a “bewildering carousel of six-second slices of ordinary life rolls past.” But since then, the app has become a triumphant achievement in online creativity, encouraging tech-savvy millennials to go out and make their own content on their mobile devices.

The app’s hook of recording something under six seconds may have been daunting at first, but the six-second limit ended up cultivating a plethora of videos that were a combination of surreal, hilarious, iconic and singular. With the right music, editing, setting, acting and timing, Vine could make anything seem possible.

Users would mash up pop music with infamous scenes from TV and film, incorporate hip hop into awkward situations and synchronized dance routines, capture cool moments in slow-motion and poke fun at current dance trends. Vine also created its own vernacular that would bewilder any baby boomer or Gen-Xer, producing phrases like “A potato flew around my room,” “Suh dude,” “Do you gotta bae or nah?” “Do it for the Vine” and “Eyebrows on fleek.”

Like its video counterpart YouTube and its parent company Twitter, Vine provided a landscape for today’s youth to integrate pop culture with comedy, shed light on national issues through relatable content and — most importantly — connect with one another through an online, globalized community, all within six seconds.

In addition to all that, Vine was a major source in making talented (and even untalented) people famous. Andrew “King Bach” Bachelor (16.2 million followers) was one of the first Viners who gained an enormous amount of popularity. Most of his Vines, which garnered thousands of likes and revines, were filled with racially tinged humor and funny catchphrases like “But that backflip tho.” Though he is currently the most followed person on Vine, Bachelor is now an established online personality, having taken his Vine fame and put it to good use on Instagram, YouTube and even film and TV. He starred in the Wayan Brothers parody film “Fifty Shades of Black” last January and had a guest spot in Joe Swanberg’s Netflix anthology series “Easy.”

Even if Bachelor and his other Vine compadres may not be everyone’s cup of tea — they mostly perpetuated and satirized racial stereotypes in their Vines — it still goes to show how much power Vine obtained as a tool for stardom. Previously unknown musicians Bobby Shmurda and Shawn Mendes received record deals after Vines of their work (Shmurda’s “Hot N****a” and Mendes’ renditions of pop jingles) became viral. Songs that already existed, such as OG Maco’s “U Guessed It,” Chedda Da Connect’s “Flicka Da Wrist” and T-Wayne’s “Nasty Freestyle,” also became well-known after Vine users popularized them. Essentially, Vine recognized voices that would have otherwise not been seen or heard by social media users, paving the way for artists to express their creative selves.

Vine also encouraged people to infuse the medium with social commentary. For example, the app became a huge part of documenting the Ferguson protests in 2014. Recorded Vines of the protests helped catalyze a national conversation on police brutality after police shot and killed Michael Brown. Had Vine not existed or reached the peak of its popularity at that time, Ferguson’s social significance would have been much more diluted.

Why, then, has Twitter decided to take away Vine from its loyal followers? The reasons given for Vine’s demise are varied, including a decline in the app’s popularity and changes in the company’s goals. But perhaps the main reason could be that Viners have outgrown Vine. Most of the app’s bad aspects involve vapid imitators who aggressively replicate trends in a deceptively simple and unoriginal way. Users also tend to make Vines that require a minimal amount of work. This pertains specifically to condensed Vines that use scenes from TV shows and movies with the addition of a few visual or audio changes for comic effect. Sometimes, they would make for clever Vines, but mostly they fail to capture what made Vine so good in the first place.  

Regardless of its defects, though, Vine will be forever missed. It gave our generation an accessible, short-form platform of entertainment, a place to joke around and express our individuality through the ever-growing medium of social media. Until Twitter announces the app’s official death date, at least we can continue to watch and laugh at our favorite Vines loop endlessly until there’s nothing left to fill the existential void of reality.