Wednesday’s class discussion on the nature of social media platforms as news outlets and the strategic advantages and detriments of the electronic delivery of news led me to think about the relationship between more traditional forms of media (i.e. film, television, etc.) and the integration of social media into our daily lives. I also considered the way we consume social media and other forms of online publications in that there is a trend which favors brevity and instant gratification. Following this train of thought, I found myself reflecting on a particular app which I feel bears more discussion and perhaps respect than it has garnered in its first year of existence. I am referring to the Twitter-based video sharing app known as Vine.
For those of you unfamiliar with Vine, it is a feed created by you and the people you follow, not unlike Twitter, which features videos up to six seconds in length. In addition to their short duration, the videos are also unique in that they all have a looping feature that allows the video to play continuously until it is scrolled past on your phone or laptop. These parameters surrounding Vines breed a unique creativity, ingenuity and wit that would not found on other mediums. A good Viner is not only aware of the limitations that the app sets, but welcomes their restrictions and utilizes them in an artistic sense. The trick to flourishing creativity on Vine is not to break the rules, but to follow them. Creating a good Vine is not for the timid, the unambitious or the impatient. It is for those who are willing to go out of their way to put thought and labor into six seconds of film that will, at best, generate a quick smirk on a user before they scroll down for more.
The reason I made this connection to Twitter and other social media as a new primary source for our news and information as opposed to the antiquated newspaper or even the TV news is because Vine operates much differently. Vine is a medium of entertainment like television, but is also categorized as a social media platform. It is both, yet neither. Vine is not quite a form of televisual entertainment, not quite a platform for social media and interacting with friends, but floats in a sort of purgatory between the two. It is this refusal of traditional definition which has given the app its own cult following; I like to think of Vine as the underground newspaper for the digital age. It has its own celebrities and cultural cannon, though popularity on Vine does not translate well into more traditional forms of media (In fact, one star with over 650 thousand followers on the app is often seen in his work attire for his job at Target). Popular Viners are content with their self-contained success within the app, perhaps because they know that their celebrity in more traditional mediums would probably last about as long as the Vines which made them famous in the first place.
For me, the idea behind Vine is brilliant, but also raises important issues that were discussed when we were covering “Is Google Making Us Stupider?” The brevity of Vine videos speaks to the instant-gratification mindset of the digital age. We want to be entertained, but we don’t want to commit 22 minutes for a sitcom, 43 minutes for a drama, or god forbid 90+ minutes for a feature film. In the words of Lisa Simpson in 1993, “[We’ve] fallen through the cracks of our quick-fix, one-hour photo, instant oatmeal society.” If feature-length films are a fine glass of Bordeaux that you casually sip at an upscale restaurant, Vine videos are shots of 12 dollar vodka that you’re pounding back on your way to a nightclub. They are fillers of entertainment between the events of your day, functioning in the same way that a comic strip might in a newspaper. (Coincidentally, Vines and comics inspire the same amount of embarrassment for me when I am caught viewing them.) So while Google might make me stupider and Vines might be detracting from my ability to appreciate film and television, I am perfectly content to sit on my phone and watch a six second video of a dog in a pool on loop.