Voices of Color Lose Out Again with the Death of Vine

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.

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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.

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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.”

 

8 comments

  1. I found your blog post super interesting! Since I am not an avid Vine user, I did not realize the racial implication Vine had as a social media outlet for people of color. I found it interesting and you make a great point in that it allowed artists of color to both make fun of themselves and raise awareness of how minority lives are different from what people perceive it as. I wonder what platform people of color will choose next once vine is gone? I can see Snapchat or YouTube being potential alternative outlets,

  2. jagpalsingh03 · ·

    Great post! I never looked viewed Vine as a platform for minorities but looking back it was obvious. There were so many Vine celebrities of various ethnicities, from King Bach to Jusreign. I think with the implementation of Instagram videos and rise of Snapchat, these Viners will be able to continue to make the short “films” they love but it’ll be a lot more difficult for any inspiring “internet” celebrity to garner massive attention without the inherent virality possible with Vine. Also, since Twitter, a platform predicated on real time events, has adopted video along with Snapchat and IG, I don’t think we’ll have a dearth of real time video updates of events like Ferguson, MO. Regardless, it’s still an unfortunate end for Vine and I hope we can find something to fill its spot.

  3. This is an awesome post! I have never thought about Vine (and its shutdown) from the perspective of race and minorities. This is what makes social media amazing. It gives people a voice that typically would not and gives them the opportunity to reach millions of viewers. I thought your example of #OscasrsSoWhite was perfect. Although new vines will no longer be uploaded, I’m glad they will be archived in order to protect the voice these users had in the past.

  4. polmankevin · ·

    Great post! I think that one of vine’s main issues was that the ‘vine stars’ who created the most engaging content also spread their productions across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. They transcended the app that originally gave them their celebrity to begin with. You raise some interesting points on race. I think the main reason why vine will be missed from a cultural perspective is because it helped bridge the gap between various races. Maybe its a testament to the mentality of the younger generations in this country, but vine helped bring people together. It allowed people to engage with funny, viral content and it helped young people of any race to offer commentary on the world today.

  5. Really nice post. I had not considered that angle to vine before. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  6. Great post on an important topic that isn’t addressed enough. A lot of pop culture, including memes, slang and trends originate from black creators and black communities, which isn’t appreciated by the mainstream that adopts it. While Vine will be missed as that core space for black creativity, I think Instagram is probably the next platform that can mirror the short-lived success of Vine for this demographic. I already see many Insta accounts that focus on humor made for audiences of color, in the form of memes and short, Vine-esque videos. I hope that Internet users will continue to enjoy such content and learn acknowledge this entire population of people as responsible for some of the funniest stuff online.

  7. Great post! I think you bring to light an unfortunate problem that at least I personally did not know a lot about. Many of the vines in my newsfeed I did not think a lot about, but now that I look back it was a way for minorities to stand in solidarity and complain about their struggles or being stereotyped in a form of a 6 second video. It’s interesting how Twitter arguably now has the biggest social media platform for racial solidarity, as the parent company has not done much for either Vine or Twitter’s small communities like #TwitterSoBlack. It’ll be interesting to see where these Viners take their talents and hopefully they will still carry their message.

  8. It’s really interesting how different social media platforms have taken on different personalities. Certainly not on their own volition, some platforms breed hate, other creativity, and some unlikely platforms such as vine end up offering voices to groups who are otherwise unheard. I hope that new spaces and platforms will be available that can continue to offer these voices; however, I feel that with the death of vine we will lose a whole group of social media stars – and with them the voices of their cultures.

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