Vine: An American Youth Issue

Many know Vine as the hugely successful app that allows people to produce six-second videos on their phones. Since its inception in 2013, Vine has become the go-to service for creating and sharing inventive, hilarious and bizarre clips. The most popular Vines are created by people who are considered “Vine famous,” based on their large number of followers and the amount of likes and “revines” their videos receive. While the “Vine famous” community may not be the most socially conscious group in the country, their influence could change our technology-obsessed generation for the better.

Recently, Vine partnered with Michelle Obama’s new campaign, Better Make Room, which provides creative and educational opportunities for high school students around the United States. According to a press release from the White House, Vine’s purpose in the campaign is “creating entertaining content that will spread the campaign’s key messages,” using the hashtag #BetterMakeRoom. This past week, a group of Viners traveled to the White House to promote the campaign, and even created some Vines with the First Lady during their trip, which can be seen on Vine’s video playlist “Viners go to the White House.” Among this group are some of Vine’s top-rated users: KingBach (14.1M followers), Lele Pons (9.7M followers), Jerome Jarre (8.5M followers), Us the Duo (4.9M followers), AmyMarie Gaertner (4.1M followers) and Chris Melberger (749.4K followers).

As an avid Vine user myself, it’s interesting to see these particular Viners come together as spokespeople, considering how different their content is. KingBach and Lele Pons make everyday scenarios into theatrical, over-the-top clips; Jerome Jarre plays pranks on unsuspecting strangers; AmyMarie specializes in freestyle dance Vines; Us the Duo comprises of a young married couple singing pop songs; Melberger’s Vines contain self-deprecating humor and parodies of other trending Viners. But although these Viners may be radically different from one another, their collaboration to promote Better Make Room reinforces their goal of creating a positive change in America’s youth through social media. As Melberger pointed out when he introduced the First Lady at the Better Make Room event, creating content on Vine and other apps can help build creativity, productivity and time management skills.

But alas, social media is known to be a double-edged sword — and Vine is no exception. I believe many top viners, including KingBach and frequent collaborators Destorm Power (5.8M followers) and MelvinGregg (3.5M followers) tend to perpetuate racial stereotypes in their Vines, yet they still receive millions of followers, likes and revines. An example of this includes a Vine created late last year called “Choir in the hood,” in which KingBach and other African-American Viners scream in operatic unison as a Jordans shoe is being cut up. Other top Viners, including Jerry Purpdrank (8.7M followers) and BigNik (2.7M followers), simply make videos that are pointless, lazy and unfunny — especially if they are titled “That moment when you…” or “How it feels when … ”

Some of these viners, such as Piques (2.8M followers) and Brent Rivera (7.9M followers), have even been known to plagiarize their material. Around two weeks ago, Piques posted a vine called “A Modern Day Romance” that took almost the same exact approach as another Vine created by DonteMacc (513.2K followers) last month. Viner Nash Grier (12.2M followers) has received lots of controversy for making racist, sexist and homophobic jokes in his Vines. Yet, Grier profits from a devoted fan base on Vine and in person. At a traveling meet-and-greet event called Magcon in early 2014, hundreds of young girls paid money to see Grier and his posse, known as the “Vine Boys,” make awkward pun jokes, sing, dance and do backflips — so, normally what Grier and his posse would do in their own Vines.

Perhaps Vine’s growing celebrity culture could be the main issue here. How will American teens be motivated to create their own content if all they see is their favorite Viner moving around on an oxboard or making a lame joke about iPhones? Even if a Viner has an insane amount of followers, it doesn’t mean he or she should be recycling the same material in every Vine for the sake of gaining followers. Considering that more than 200 million people watch Vines every month, the content produced and whom it affects matters. Now that Better Make Room has become an official initiative, top Viners now have the responsibility to generate content that is more than just entertainment for teenagers. The same can be said about anyone who creates and shares videos on Vine: It’s not about having as many followers as possible, but about making creative, relevant content that engages our society through social media. And what better way to connect to the youth than doing just that?

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