Saying farewell to Vine, an art form dedicated to inhibition

Before its closure, Vine created a large number of celebrities able to touch an entire generation in need of an escape. Photo courtesy of The Independent.
Before its closure, Vine created a large number of celebrities able to touch an entire generation in need of an escape. Photo courtesy of The Independent.

When is that last time you truly lost yourself? When is the last time, in public and sober, you abandoned all inhibition?

For me, it was last week in Baxter Hall. I was with a group of friends and there was a lull in conversation. I don’t do well with silence, so I pulled out my phone. But what could I conjure to improve the vibe? My choice was clear — the app Vine.

Vine is the ultimate social stimulant, the best way to get a group laughing. Inorganic? Maybe. But the results are undeniable.

I unlocked my phone to find a suitable Vine. First, I tested the waters with a clip of Tyra Banks speaking in tongues. The reception was lukewarm, so I tried again. Next up was a woman taking a dramatic fall in an In-N-Out. The response was stronger. Gaining confidence, I decided to take a risk and showed them a clip of Ina Garten searching for “spicy things” and selecting ketchup. They loved it. I was on a roll and I knew how to close: a lawnmower flying through the sky to the tune of Mariah Carey. They lost it. Two of my friends laughed to the point of tears.

If art is supposed to transport us, no medium is more successful than Vine. It isn’t just an app; it’s a mental state. It’s absolutely mindless. As one six-second loop blends into the next, one can unwittingly watch for hours without noticing the passage of time.

Picture yourself in middle school, laughing at an inside joke. Recall the hilarity. The inability to explain what was funny or why. Remember the satisfaction of getting it, the pleasure of being “in” on the joke. Vine captures that moment. It freezes it in time, perpetuating the sense of abandon that accompanied our most unrestrained laughter. Scrolling through Vine was like taking a tour of an adolescent mind. For many, it was an enduring and treasured connection to the absurdity of childhood.

But childhood doesn’t last forever and, apparently, neither does Vine.

Two weeks ago, Vine’s parent company, Twitter, announced plans to close the app. This marked the end of Vine’s brief, four-year life. Its closure was the result of long-term financial struggles at Twitter and, according to the New York Times, the app lost about $10 million a month.

Though the College had a few truly dedicated fans, the campus Vine scene was never particularly unified or well-developed. When asked about the app, students’ reactions were increadibly varied. According to Ananya Mahalingam-Dhingra ’18, “Vine is for small, prepubescent boys.”

Others had warmer feelings for the app. Longtime Viner Michelle Domm ’18 said, “Vine is fun now because no one uses it. You can upload things and not worry about other people actually seeing them.” But Vine’s obscurity also opened a space for genuine expression. Domm continued, “You really get to be creative. There are social norms that come with other apps like Facebook and Instagram, but Vine is detached from them.”

There is something poetic about Vine’s closure. In its short life, it was never constrained by the conventions of adulthood. Unlike other apps, it was never profaned by the presence of advertising. No one ever found a way to make it profitable. It had no point. It transcended both commerce and convention.

We will miss our descents into the rabbit hole that Vine so alluringly offered. We will fondly recall our favorite Vines. We will remember the man doing back handsprings in a Krispy Kreme. We will smile at the memory of a woman twerking to the beat of the FitnessGram pacer test. Our hearts will be warmed by the thought of a boy thanking his parents for an avocado he received on Christmas morning. With tongue in cheek, we may even encourage our friends to “do it for the Vine.”

Vine was all about moments; it captured them in vibrant and immediate terms. But maybe the app’s ability to preserve the visceral sensation of our favorite moments went too far. Maybe it cheapened them — maybe moments shouldn’t last forever.

In its closure, Vine became a moment in itself. In our memories, it will remain pure.

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