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Generation Z pines for Vine


     When contemplating the history of Gen Z (those born from the late 1990s to the early 2010s) and our extremely unique sense of humor, a series of iconic phrases come to mind: hurricane tortilla, road work ahead, anything for you Beyoncé, can I get a waffle, I don’t need a degree to be a clothing hanger—the list goes on and on. Many of us offhandedly reference them from time to time like an integral part of our vocabulary. So what do these seemingly unrelated inside jokes all have in common? The answer is quite simple: they all originated on the hugely popular social media site Vine. 

     Vine was released to the global community in January 2013, and quickly became one of the most popular apps of all time. During an era when the majority of Gen Z was first reaching teenage years and social media use was increasing, Vine provided a way to find simple humor and connect with friends online. The site’s unique feature of limiting Vines (as videos from the app are referred to) to a maximum length of six seconds forced users to start making humorous videos without the aid of context, which in turn gave rise to the modern internet meme, an encompassing term generally describing any funny image or video made with no

Vine & Gen Z Graphic.JPG

Graphic by William Becker

context provided. Internet memes quickly made their way onto other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, and have essentially become a defining feature of Gen Z culture.

     This new type of minimalistic but heavily layered humor (as many memes reference others) essentially gave rise to what is now known as “Gen Z humor,” which describes largely random jokes made with little or no understandable context. To keep track of these, social media users often create what are known as “meme calendars,” documenting some of the best-known and most popular memes from each month of the year. For example, January 2019 included highlights such as: behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast of Scooby-Doo (2002) which were edited to make it seem as though Matthew Lillard was secretly a deity hell-bent on triggering Armageddon, references to Matt (a virtual character from Wii Sports) and a completely silent clip of a hamster staring at a camera. You know, just to name a few.

     This type of humor has developed on an international scale in recent years, and has outlived its humble origins in Vine, which was shut down in January 2017. Multiple attempts have been made to create a “new Vine” in apps like Byte and TikTok, but many agree that the charm of Vine was and always will be unique to that app. In actuality, Vine has become so endeared by members of Gen Z that years-old videos saved from the app are still exchanged on social media quite often. Whole accounts devoted to reposting Vines are still quite common on most social media platforms, and YouTube compilations of iconic Vines are still posted on a daily basis. Creators who once found relative fame on Vine, such as Chloe Frances and Quenlin Blackwell (still commonly remembered as quensadilla) often still have an active social media presence elsewhere and are still quite popular among the scattered Vine community.

     When it comes down to the basics of Gen Z culture, the main question is this: why is an app that has been defunct for several years still so cherished and upheld? I think it’s mainly the fact that we recognize how important Vine was to the development of our collective sense of humor, and many classic Vines represent the cherished origins of that humor. Being the first generation born into a world of the internet and ceaseless connection, Gen Z has developed a very unique culture and sense of humor from our constant exposure to unlimited social interaction. Though only time will tell what that means for our future, I readily admit that I am proud and happy to be a member of Gen Z, and I think our extremely unusual sense of humor is something quite special.

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