Vine and #music show that Twitterers would rather talk than listen
You don't need to be told how popular Vine is. You've probably seen the reports about Vine surpassing Instagram on Twitter. The rumor that Instagram will be adding some video-sharing features later this week. The profile of Riff Raff, a dreadlocked white rapper who has quickly become one of the service's most popular users. We've reached peak Vine, and the service is just six months old.
And then there's #music, the horribly-named music discovery service Twitter released in April to "change the way people find music" that you've probably already forgotten about. The service's iPhone application lost 62 percent of its users between April and May, according to Onavo Insights; Vine's iPhone application grew 40 percent during the same time period. It's becoming pretty clear which flower is most likely to last in Dick Costolo's zen garden -- but why?
The answer might be so simple it hurts, and could also explain why Instagram photos have ceded ground to Vine videos over the last few months: People want to do shit when they're on Twitter. Despite the popular conception of Twitter as a never-ending stream of tweets that teenage girls and men with neckbeards, it seems that Twitter's users prefer to "lean in" -- not in the Sheryl Sandberg sense of the word -- rather than "lean back" and watch other people's thoughts and photos scroll by.
Despite its utility as an information-streaming service -- you don't need to look beyond Flipboard, Prismatic, or any other number of "social readers" to see that Twitter is being used to passively aggregate content -- Twitter's emphasis is on action. You aren't supposed to "lurk" and simply read others' posts. You're supposed to retweet what other people are sharing, add your own commentary, share a Vine, a link, a photo, an anything that keeps the stream moving. (This is why Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson said that Instagram and its photo-sharing users could have been so valuable to Twitter.)
We saw this after the Boston Marathon bombings, which led to the dissemination of false, partially false, and harmful information primarily because, as the New Yorker's Matt Buchanan puts it, Twitter is the "medium of the moment." Twitter doesn't particularly care if you are beholden to its stream of information, but it's pretty damned interested in making sure you continue to help that stream expand. It's a perpetual information machine powered by your thoughts, experiences, and ironical hashtags.
Creating all of this noise is fairly enjoyable. People are using Twitter as a communications platform with their friends, their idols, their customer service complaints, and so much more. It's a place for discussion. Unfortunately, Twitter has gotten so good at letting us talk that it's become a bad place to listen. As writer, consultant, and Need founder Matt Alexander told me after #music's launch:
Twitter at its best is when you’re using Twitter itself and engaging with people. Twitter at its worst is when it’s trying to put itself at the forefront of what you’re discussing. Twitter’s trying to be the object of discussion rather than the mediator [with #music.]
Vine doesn't suffer from those problems. It isn't limited to passive interaction, as are #music or Instagram. You point; you shoot; you share the result to your social networks, and that's it. You're active. And if there's anything that Twitter has shown during its relatively short existence, it's that so many people would rather be active and have their voices heard than be forced to shut up and just listen.
[Image Credit: shawncampbell]