I know this is wicked late, but hear me out. As you’ve all probably heard, Vine—or more accurately, its mothership Twitter—shocked the world on October 27th by announcing the discontinuation of Vine. It’s crazy, as an avid viewer of Vines, to think that two years ago, this was the most used video sharing app on the market. So for those of you who aren’t up-to-date with recent news, here’s what went down:
Recently, Twitter has been experiencing some hard times. Its user base isn’t growing, new platform features left lackluster results, and there was even an exodus of key executives to top it all off. To cut down on costs, the social networking service had planned for a massive layoff—and this is where Vine comes in.
When Twitter acquired Vine in 2012, the six-second video looping app gained a huge following amongst teens and creative folks. Vine had 100 million viewers every month and 1.5 billion video loops every day; notable users, including King Bach and Logan Paul, saw their entertainment careers skyrocket with the help of Vine landing them TV shows and advertising deals. But growing up in this generation raised on the Internet, I’ve learned that we can easily fall madly in love with something today, and move on to the next coolest thing tomorrow. And for Vine, its end was approaching as it saw its following dwindle down to just tens of millions of users and a new challenger—live streaming app Periscope—taking over Twitter’s main platform as a direct source of video sharing. With Vine’s co-founders out of the picture and Twitter not really sure of how to monetize on the video app, Twitter decided that saying goodbye to Vine would be the best financial step forward.
Yes, I’m a little salty that new Vines won’t be popping on my feed anymore, but without a doubt, the people that were hurt the most by Vine’s shutdown were the creators that got us all watching in the first place. In particular, the loss of Vine has closed the door on another opportunity for many black and brown voices to be heard.
People loved Vines for their absurdity, but they also loved it for the diverse community of users who could make you laugh, cry, and decry bigotry—all in a mere six seconds. When Hollywood struggled with #OscarsSoWhite, Vine served as a hub for people of color to cultivate “their culture, their humor and their talents.” A prime example would be King Bach, Vine’s most followed user. King Bach, whose real name is Andrew B. Bachelor, became iconic for his refreshing takes on black comedy. Whether he was poking fun at stereotypes of “life in the hood” or teaching you how he gets the ladies, Bachelor showcased a legacy of black creativity rooted in popular culture that was further empowered by Vine’s cultural ecosystem of sharing.
Beyond setting precedent for America’s creative landscape, Vine enabled people to witness the racial unrest that occurred at the front lines of events like Ferguson. Bystanders in Ferguson, Mo. became real-time reporters who could capture the protests in wake of the 2014 Michael Brown police shooting through Vines. St. Louis alderman, Antonio French, has had his Vines of the Ferguson protests viewed about 100 million times in the last two years. Rather than waiting for mainstream media to make a move, Vines birthed a social media movement that allowed the nation to gain a visceral understanding of these events as they happened and sparked greater black activism in the online world.
For an app that has had such an immense impact on people of color, the incentive behind Vine’s shutdown may have been more than just for financial purposes. There’s been an ongoing concern about the lack of diversity in tech and the inability of tech to connect with young content creators of color. With the best users of Vine being black people, Twitter’s incapability of relating to that audience caused the main platform to not be able to capitalize on the valuable opportunities that arose from that user group. This isn’t nothing we’re strangers to with black cultural production behind art, music, and dance having been heavily ignored throughout history as sources of prominent influence.
Twitter has also come under fire as a “breeding ground” for white supremacy and its general ignorance of the targeted hate that occurs on its platform. A prime example of Twitter’s inadequacy in censoring trolls would be the case of actress Leslie Jones this past summer. An active Twitter user who left me quite entertained during the 2016 Summer Olympics, Jones gave up on Twitter after one too many attacks from a mob of racists and misogynistic tweeters. While she did eventually return to Twitter, not many victims of online abuse do, and it’s a valid issue that Twitter has failed to address in its latest feature changes.
No one asked Vine to ignite some huge discussion on race and culture, but it did help provide an outlet for black art that many sectors of mainstream media have chosen to ignore. It allowed artists of color to both make fun of themselves and raise awareness of how minority lives vastly differ from the stereotypes embedded in the perceptions of the majority. Of course, the end hasn’t actually come for up-and-coming online stars of color; so many other platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, have shown great potential in propelling new social media careers (i.e. King Bach’s YT channel). I’m only sad to say that the next time someone contemplates about whether to video tape themselves doing something funny, they won’t be able to say that they’ll “do it for the vine.”