The Vine-killing video option Facebook added to Instagram on Thursday has immediately started to bring motion pictures to your wedding dress-filled mobile photo feeds, but in attempting to copycat Twitter's stop-motion app, Facebook has also introduced an oddly refreshing pattern of weirdness to the notably twee Instagram. Welcome to the age of the Instavideo freakazoid.
Until now, Instagram invited a sort of pseudo-artistic sensibility. Even if your average photo-taker isn't trying to get all fancy, the filters inherently make everything from rich kids to people smoking weed look pretty, in a hazy, nostalgic kind of way. Indeed, the top Instagram posters other than celebrities (and pseudo-celebrities) are users like @NewYorkCity, who puts out lovely pictures of New York, or National Geographic, which has found a new home, more than 2 million followers strong, for its incredible images from around the world. And that's the kind of stuff most of the rest of us 100 million-plus Instagram monthly users post — the top photos in my feed right now are a beach scene, a futuristic light fixture, the requisite cup of coffee, and a biker riding through the Utah mountains. It all looks very lovely. But with Thursday's video update, Instagram feeds have become instantly disrupted with delightfully bizarre new things.
Some of the first Instagram videos are just as mundane or "artistic" as the service's usual fare — but there's also a glimpse of what's to come. Some of the first videos to come to my attention were clips from mistercap talking about rolling joints. YouTube star iJustine has been playing around with Instagram video, and both of her clips — one of her making a grotesque face and another of testing out the service — verge on the lovably weird. Anyone who follows her Internet persona knows that's part of her schtick, but photo versions (pictured at right) tend to come off as an aesthetic rather than a personality. And personality bordering on odd means a lot more than photos with hipster borders, even if the 13 new Instagram video filters include names like "Brooklyn," "Moon," and "Gingham."
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The video medium, of course, has always kind of allowed for a more personal form of expression than still photos, and you have to look no further than Vine — you know, the Twitter-made service that Facebook totally copied — to see evidence of that. The supposed "stars" of Vine aren't filming kids playing on a hill or a delayed subway so much as a guy yelling "love" at an unsuspecting shopper, or Riff Raff — the man who may or may not have inspired James Franco's character in Spring Breakers — yelling things at people. The biggest memes on Vine so far have involved spoon-feeding Ryan Gosling cereal and throwing up fake blood. That's a long way away from 15-second videos of how to make coffee, as demonstrated by Instagram chief Kevin Systrom during Thursday's product announcement.
Vine and Instagram, though, have and will continue to have very different user bases, and Vine isn't going away anytime soon. Instagram is a social network for the masses; Vine has "weird Twitter." But, if trending hashtags (on Twitter!) are to be believed, Instagram will soon get an influx of Vine users, which would hopefully bring a little something different to Facebook's billion-dollar baby. It'd be nice to happen upon a video of some white rappers embarrassing themselves or Stephanie Tanner dancing to some Juicy J in between the the sunsets and scenery wouldn't it?