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Two Years Later, Vine Is A Window

But it mostly looks crazy out there.

Posted on January 26, 2015, at 5:49 p.m. ET

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Vine is one of my core social apps. Because I'm a tech writer, I go through a lot of phones, and it's one of a very small handful that I always set up every time I test out some new handset. Mostly, because Vine is fun.

I tend to use Vine the same way I use TV: to entertain myself. Just in smaller doses. There's always something kind of funny, kind of amazing, kind of cool to see there and the channels flip continuously. But I started noticing something there this year, and it's something that I think is borne out in this year-end list of the biggest Vines it rolled out last week.

This year, a lot of the Vines I saw in my feed — and especially the re-Vines (think reblogs or retweets and also think why everything needs its own dumb term for essentially universal sharing actions) — were documentary. It was Ferguson and "I Can't Breathe." Now, you make your own experience on social. My follow graph doesn't look like yours, and my experience is solely my own.

Yet that's also what I found remarkable about the Vines on its anniversary list: a lot of them are serious looks at real people's real lives. Now, that's only remarkable if you think about what Vine has been, which has been very much performance-based. It really took off as a place for people to showcase their talents — for music, for humor, for creating art. But in this year's best of, there's a lot of stuff that's just, well, real.

Instead of a stage, it started to feel a bit more like a window.

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That's not always to say that it's documentary, or that it's journalism or even journaling. There's also a certain type of moment Vine is really good at capturing. Unguarded. Unrehearsed. Beautiful and (literally) moving. But just for a moment.

A lot of what shows up on the "best of year two" playlist is just straight-up people being people. For example, the lead clip from its roundup should melt even the iciest of hearts.

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That's not to say there isn't a performance element to most of the year's best. There very much is. Vine's best is still largely dominated by dancing and singing and sports and music and gags. And I would argue that the best stuff on there is still mostly people performing.

But increasingly the popular clips have a documentary element; a human element. I'm guessing there will be quite a few really beautiful Vines of the Juno snowstorm, and part of what will be so gorgeous about them will be the futility of man in the face of nature.

Take the video at the top of the page. Yes, it's a SpaceX rocket crashing. But more than that, it's human beings trying and failing. Which is exceeded only by the times you catch them succeeding. Shout out to all the pear.

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All of this is to say that Vine is starting to remind me of Twitter. In its earliest days, Twitter was a combination of wannabe comedians and thought-leadership blow-hards. (Okay, maybe it still is.) But there was a moment in time when that platform went from being strictly a performance to a genuine source of information. When it became defined not by people bragging about their fancy lunches, but by "arrested."

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Currently, Vine is still more toy than tool. And its year-end list proves that and then some. Vine has always felt younger, and looser, and faster than many of its social media cousins. But it also feels a little bit like it's starting to grow up.

Or at least gaze out.

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