With Twitter’s recent announcement to discontinue the youth-driven mobile app Vine, it's worth considering the significant impact and influence the platform exerted on culture, both online and off.
Vine allowed young people to self-express and story-tell in a way that no other social-media platform had previously enabled. Sharp, witty, nuanced and of the moment, Vine provided a new wave of digital native Gen Z creators with the tools to communicate and broadcast complex cultural ideas in a way previously unseen.
Crucially, Vine’s six-second format didn’t give much room or time for explanation. Content was therefore often rooted in the cultural in-joke, giving users access to a unique space that allowed for a celebration of shared understanding. In turn, a new found sense of belonging in the digital age emerged.
At its height, Vine undeniably provided a distinct and important creative outlet for young people, particularly those from black and minority ethnic communities. The cultural impact here can’t be ignored; it’s the ingenious approach to the platform’s strict format that speaks most about its user base’s extraordinary creativity.
Creators of colour found a safe space to experiment. These were young people who found that they no longer had to ask for permission; they didn’t feel the need to explain or justify themselves (or their culture) to anyone other than those that got it. We saw an outpouring of content, potent and concentrated in its cultural ingenuity and unparalleled creativity.
|This article is part of the Cultural Radar series|
Through humour and subversion, Vine allowed its youth user base to go against longstanding cultural norms and behaviours. Japan housed one of the largest user bases of the platform outside of the US. There, Vine arguably freed its young creators from a culture of constrained self expression, whilst simultaneously providing a master class in communicating an online brand and personality. Predictably, it didn’t take long for brands to come knocking.
Vine gave birth to memes and language that infiltrated and dominated the Internet. But crucially, its influence found its way into the real world. Teenager Kayla Newman, better known as Peaches Monroee online, was 16 when she unknowingly passed “on fleek” to the world. Many rightly argue that despite having a huge influence on shaping the culture we consume, it was these young creators who got left behind in favour of “courting brands and celebrities” in an effort to drive growth to social platforms. It’s important not to underestimate the cultural impact of minority communities online.
Vine wasn’t just a tool for humour, it was a means of self-expression, comfort, the validation of cultural identity and the articulation of a sense of place. Dig deep enough through any number of Vine compilations online and you’ll see streams of 6 second clips, sketches on life, that, whether or not you “get it”, give an acute insight into the state of culture, conversation and experience of young people the world over.
Will De Groot is senior research executive at Flamingo London