Vine, the micro-video-blogging service launched in 2012 is to close. Vine was at the forefront of adding video to social media with its six-second video clips, a baton that has been picked up by the video messaging app, Snapchat and live-streaming app, Periscope.
In the ten or so years since Facebook and Twitter launched, social media has become embedded in everyday life. In the process, as can be seen by the immense popularity of image sharing sites such as Instagram, it has become increasingly visual. The creative content generated has shifted toward capturing the users’ visual imagination – and as we know the visual can be consumed much more quickly than text.
So social media has become more visual and more rapidly consumed – trends that Vine encapsulated. Vine’s video content uses imagery to quickly capture attention, while the six-second limit means that the site is designed with speed in mind. However, the end of Vine does not mean the end of these trends – Vine’s closure is more to do with the power of competitors like Snapchat offering much the same and cost-saving staff cuts at Twitter, its parent company, than it is to do with a lack of enthusiasm for what it offers. In any case, much of Vine’s video-posting functionality has been built into Twitter itself.
We are living in accelerated times – as sociologist Judy Wajcman put it recently, we feel “pressed for time”. We are bombarded by information, the metaphors for which are often of a watery persuasion: flows, waves, washes, storms, tides and deluges that engulf, surround and drown us. Our lives seem culturally crafted and shaped by the speed and volume of the information to which we are exposed.
Commentators, from media theorist Mark Andrejevic to stand-up comedian Dave Gorman have suggested that our everyday lives are defined by the feeling that we are experiencing too much information. This overloading effect alters how we question and understand the world – and even our grasp of the truth. So social media will be likely to unfold along the lines of these broader social trends, striving to operate more quickly in order to give people the opportunity to keep up with a rapidly changing world.
Goldsmiths College sociologist Scott Lash claims that this deluge has drastically escalated in recent years – we now live in an “intensive culture” marked by rapid rhythms and a high density of information. As global networks spread outwards they also press inwards upon us, he argues, broadening in scope while also ramping up the intensity and concentration they exert on us. This applies to anything, from the way we binge-watch television boxsets, to the torrents of social media posts. Our lives have become much more tightly packed.
We can see social media as fuelling what cultural theorist John Tomlinson has referred to as the “cultures of speed”. Social media might well be one of the things that makes life seem quicker, but at the same time the feeling that we are “pressed for time” in turn shapes how people use it. In this context visual forms of communication become more appealing, because they allow us to communicate and share ideas more rapidly.
So Vine’s pursuit of the visual and the rapid will live on even though Vine will not. The question we’re left with is where this need for speed will take us next.