“Why you always lyin’?”
“Put ‘em in the coffin.”
“Back at it again at Krispy Kreme."
These are the hilariously bizarre phrases that continue to fill the texts of teens and twenty-somethings today.
Such is the case for Robi Calloway, 21, and her group of 15-plus high school friends who still text each other phrases from their favourite Vines. Calloway was in high school when Vine was released as a free iOS app in 2013, and she and her friends started using the platform the same way many others did: To create, by her account, “dumb” six-second videos. Soon, they were spending hours watching and laughing hysterically at the Vines others had shared.
“It was just something we did,” Calloway says.
Their favourites — the “Crack Kid” who gets hit in the head with a basketball, Cody Ko’s desire to make someone named Jenna send a tweet, and Nicholas Fraser’s “why you always lyin’” dance on top of a toilet — became long-running inside jokes that continue to hold sway, and provoke laughs, in their group text today. They also sound ridiculous if you haven’t seen the looping videos. Then again, that’s exactly what a Vine was: A clip without much, if any, context whatsoever.
Of course, Calloway and her friends will never have any new Vines to add to their thread, since Vine is dead. Compared to other breakout social networks that launched between 2010 and 2015, including Instagram and Snapchat, Vine’s lifespan was relatively short. Twitter bought Vine in 2012 and, after failing to innovate at the pace of Instagram and Snapchat and turn it into a money-making venture, officially shut it down in January 2017. (This April, Twitter placed the Vine Archive in a "more static archived state", where you can no longer easily search for Vines but can still view them if you have a specific Vine's URL.) The online mourning period was punctuated by fan-created odes, support threads, and remembrances of the best Vines of days past. It was a drawn-out funeral where creators, celebrities, and tech luminaries gathered to pay their respects.
In a social media era filled with don’t-open-Insta-and-you’ll-miss-them, 24-hour Stories, Vine stood out as an anomaly: Even though the clips were quick, they could be watched on repeat and often were, becoming embedded in the cultural zeitgeist. What’s surprising isn’t just that Vine is still relevant after its death — it’s that it’s continuing to grow and attract new fans, sending an important message about the kind of content that’s needed and wanted on social media.
It’s been a little over a year now since Vine passed, but if you weren’t keeping tabs on the life and death of the Internet phenomenon, you wouldn’t know it. Over the course of 2017, there were 16 million tweets mentioning Vine. This year is on track to beat that number: There have already been seven million Tweets mentioning Vine, with 1.3 million happening in May alone. Some of these tweets are extensions of the mourning phase (see: Casey Neistat), but many more are ones that share old Vines, treating them with excitement, as if they are newly discovered gems all over again.
The multiple, unaffiliated Vine accounts that exist and continue to post on Twitter and YouTube range from the broad (Best Vines) to the niche (Cute Animal Vines). The sole purpose of these accounts is to share old Vines and Vine compilations. If you’ve ever spent hours looking for a beloved Vine to show to your friends and family, these accounts are a godsend, preserving your favourite moments — from the Apple Store lady‘s rant to Peaches Monroe’s “eyebrows on fleek” — in a digital capsule that’s outliving its medium.
Taylor Nikolai, 30, started the unaffiliated @FunnyVines account on Twitter in 2013. Back then, Vines were only available on mobile, not the web (the web version was not launched until January 2014), making it difficult to aggregate Vines. Nikolai, who now runs Viral Spark, a social media marketing and consulting company, and has received renown as a Snapchat creator, was an opportunist: He saw the potential to build a massive audience of Vine fans, and collection of Vines, long before the platform died.
“I realised very quickly that there was an opportunity to grow a Twitter account that specialised in the curation of Vines,” Nikolai told Refinery29 via email. “With Vines being difficult to come by in the first place, if I could find the funniest ones, and be the first to embed them in my tweets, my tweets would go viral. I was right, and the account exploded in growth on day one.”
In 2016, when followers heard Vine was ending, thousands told Nikolai they would unfollow @FunnyVines the day Vine shut down. It’s been two years since, and Nikolai says the opposite has happened — the account’s number of followers has ballooned to 2.27 million and continues to grow every day. “Everyone stuck around, and it's funny — all the content that made us smile and laugh a few years ago, still makes us smile and laugh,” he says. “The memes that went viral on Vine years ago still resonate today.”
Nikolai’s theory about the account’s perseverance speaks to the qualities that make them shareable: “It’s just so easy for six seconds to be memorised, memed, and quoted over and over.”
It isn’t a total shock that Vine’s original audience — and legions of new fans from a younger generation — continue to watch the videos. After all, we witness songs, shows, and fashion trends experiencing a cultural rebirth all the time. But there’s more to Vine’s enduring relevance than that. The looping six-second video clips, by virtue of their short time frame and focus on capturing individual moments of humour, are almost timeless. A Vine is an inside joke everyone, all across the Internet, is in on. Whereas an entire episode of Gossip Girl can easily feel outdated because of the clothes worn and technology used, it’s harder to feel that way about Vines. Plus, while other social platforms are more curated, Vine was about true spontaneity.
Still, there’s also likely an element of romanticisation fuelling the nostalgia, Karyn Spencer, the former Head of Creator Development at Vine, said via email. Spencer worked at the company from August 2015 until its untimely end in January 2017. She was brought on to develop Vine’s first-ever creator strategy, though it was a belated effort. (Snapchat is currently reckoning with its own late embrace of its creators and Instagram’s new push for creators through IGTV just officially kicked off yesterday.) While some of the current mentions of missing Vine come from genuine fans, Spencer says she’s noticed a tendency of people tapping into the popularity of talking about how much they miss Vine to draw out followers’ sentiments on social.
“It’s very popular to talk about Vine on Twitter these days, which comes with a lot of irony,” Spencer says. “But the real community always loved it, and they know who they are. We see fake fans pop up from time to time and we discuss it with eye rolls in private group chats. That’s not to say that you can’t be a new fan, but some people say things like ‘Oh how I miss it’, and well, we knew who was active and who wasn’t. There is some pretending going on for the likes.”
Spencer is happy to see that many of the best Vine creators have successfully continued to build their careers and their following on other platforms, including YouTube and, soon, IGTV. There’s Liza Koshy, who has over 15 million YouTube subscribers, Lele Pons, who has over 25 million followers on Instagram, and Andrew Bachelor (i.e. King Bach), who has a full IMDb page of upcoming movies.
Brittany Furlan is another such creator. Furlan was the most followed female star on Vine when she quit the platform in 2015. She initially created an account as a struggling actress, because she saw it as a “cool, creative outlet.” Her funny reactions to relatable moments, such as the discomfort of watching a movie with your parents when a sex scene comes on, propelled her to viral fame within a matter of months.
She was one of the lucky ones. Her status as a Vine star led to her landing an agent, manager, and movie gigs. “It really helped me segue from this tough spot I was in to being able to do what I want to do, which is awesome,” Furlan says.
Still, any nostalgia she has for Vine is for the early days, “when it was just me in my house struggling with anxiety, success, and just trying to find myself and having pure fun. That's what made me popular. There was no end goal of being successful. There was no end goal of having a bunch of followers. There was none of that. It was just so pure and so fun.”
It seems that the longer social media platforms exist, the less creatively “pure” they become: Instagram is full of perfect photos and SponCon, and Snapchat is full of branded filters. This is only natural — the platforms and the people on them need to make a living. While it’s all well and good to reminisce about the glory days of Vine, it’s worth asking whether we’d still love Vine if it matured.
In December, Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann announced plans to resurrect Vine with a sequel, Vine 2. But hundreds of tweets of joy were quickly dashed last month when Hofmann followed up to say the project is postponed indefinitely, citing financial and legal fees as the cause. Still, there is a possibility that Vine could return, though there’s a larger question fans, both old and new, would need to answer if it did: Would we like the new Vine in today’s social media climate and, furthermore, would we want anything to tarnish the Vine that was?
For her part, Spencer suggested and is hopeful that Twitter will incorporate Vine into the app as a new tab. Given the way Vine has come back to life in some form on Twitter (and the fact that Twitter still owns Vine), it’s a sound idea. Come on, Twitter: Do it for the Vine.