On Culture

On Culture: Social media network Vine creates new world of celebrities

CorrespondentMay 24, 2014 

Here’s a fun, little game to play the next time you’re bored. Roll up on strangers and ask them who the following people are:

• Will Sasso.

• Klarity.

• Curtis Lepore.

• King Bach.

• Brittany Furlan.

If they look at you like you’re insane, they’re not on Vine.

These names might not mean anything to those who don’t spend a lot of time on their smartphones. But to those who have the social media app Vine on their iPhones or Androids, these people are rock stars.

Owned by social media giant Twitter, the video-sharing service, where users can post 6-second clips that are repeatedly looped, is only a year-and-a-half old. But it’s already turned into a time-wasting juggernaut. Vine amassed more than 40 million users by last fall, the latest numbers available. Heck, even I’m on it. (@unclecrizzle, if you’re curious.)

Vine is mostly a young person’s game, as evidenced by the teenage faces that usually populate Vine vids. But tech-crazy adults, like 44-year-old Raleigh psychologist Abby Nardo, also get in on the fun.

“I’m kind of an app junkie,” says Nardo (aka @abbyladybug), who often posts amusingly lackadaisical Vine clips, usually of her pets. “ ‘The cat did something cute’ is a pretty popular Vine, or ‘the dog did something cute.’ 

But, like most people on Vine, she uses her profile, where she has made more than 900 clips and has snatched up more than 200 followers, to interact with local Viners and other like-minded folk.

“What is funny is that some of the people I follow on here are people that I know socially, but I probably wouldn’t be out drinking with them,” she says. “But I certainly enjoy watching their stupid, I’m-out-drinking Vines.”

Vine is not just a place where people can record fast, silly clips. It’s a spot where budding Internet celebs can quickly build a name, a brand, an audience. The people I mentioned at the start of this column have at least 1 million-plus followers watching their every recorded move. (Bach and Furlan have more than 6 million.) Popular Viners can actually have a lucrative career, selling T-shirts, scoring corporate deals or landing movie/TV gigs.

But much like everything else online, Vine can be used for good and for evil. Just as Viners can make a name for themselves, Viners can also make a name for themselves for all the wrong reasons.

Some bored kids make “smack-cam” videos, which have them finding ingenious ways to slap friends, relatives or even strangers (usually with baby powder or something messy). The same thing goes for “yaga” videos, in which guys and girls unsuspectingly pull the back of someone’s (usually ponytailed) hair. And, of course, there are those embarrassing, often violent viral videos, like the now-infamous clip of a girl named Sharkeisha sucker-punching another girl or the recent video of a girl getting hit with a shovel during an altercation with another girl, that gets reposted and remixed to death on Vine.

With all the juvenile, antisocial behavior that goes on Vine (as well as Instagram, which has stepped up its game to include sharing 15-second videos), you’d think parents would have launched some sort of anti-Vining crusade. But Chuck Tryon, associate professor of film and media studies at Fayetteville State University, says the lack of oversight and parental supervision on Vine is what makes it so attractive to kids in the first place.

“A lot of parents are obviously on Facebook,” Tryon says. “Some are on Twitter. But I think this is the network where the younger generation can have a little bit of space to maybe escape or to be away from parental protection or monitoring a little bit.”

So, where does the future lie for Vine? Will it become a springboard for the stars and filmmakers of tomorrow, or just another online dump full of video junk? Tryon, who sees the creativity that many clever Viners pull off, remains hopeful.

“(Vine) may eventually feel some pressure to make sure that they have a somewhat cleaner reputation,” he says. “I think it’s something like Twitter. You know, it took Twitter several years to figure out what it was going to be and how it was going to process from its popularity, and that’s something that’s still probably somewhat up in the air.

“I think it lends itself to a lot of creative, emotional and engaging types of things. I can see people telling long-form stories using a series of Vines. There are lots of potential uses for it, and I think it’s such a flexible tool that it’s something that will probably endure for a while.”

Lindsey: talkingfurniture@aol.com

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