Instagram Video
Longer attention spans! It’s just what they weren’t expecting! (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

So apparently we are fair-weather video friends and sunshine patriots. The popularity of video-sharing app Vine that until this afternoon was “sprouting” to “world-wide popularity” has — well, withered on the vine.

First, #RIPVine trended on Twitter. Then it fell out of the top topics altogether and #InstagramVideo took over, because we are nothing if not fickle. Then another topic began trending, #UsingVineIsLike, in which people likened it to “checking myspace” and “using a landline.” That’s SO EIGHT MINUTES AGO! And we must move on, boats against the current, borne forward ceaselessly into the future, or something. 

This was the closest I’ve ever felt to being a fruit fly. An empire fell, we mourned it, we started making fun of it, and it all transpired in the course of maybe three hours. Tops.

Is our attention span really so short?

And are we really jumping ship? Vines are just six seconds long. The new Instagram videos are a full 15 seconds! This is the same as the difference between how long I wish the Hobbit series were and how long The Hobbit series actually is.

As Rob Delaney tweeted, “.@facebook Just want to say big congrats guys. Every time I watch a Vine, I think “I wish this were 150% longer.”

Is Instagram really betting that our attention span is going to increase? Have we finally reached the point, long-dreamed-of by our ancestors, when we stopped wanting everything shorter and more instant and settled down to read Russian novels quietly without interruption? So far, few people have won by betting that our attention span will not keep shrinking until it is invisible to the unaided eye, but maybe that trend is over. The trick is knowing when to jump ship. After all, cavalry was a great bet for overrunning enemy fortifications — until it really, really wasn’t.

Einstein once explained relativity by saying, “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.” Where does Vine/Instagram Video fit into this? Watch a Vine video on loop for a minute, and it feels like an hour. Watch an Instagram video on loop for a minute, and the filter is kind of impressive, but it’s hard to be that captivated by an organic omelette moving slowly leftwards.*

Or maybe we have a lot more to say, and we are going to start saying it, with filters! In the future, everyone will be auteurs for 15 seconds. Maybe the only thing holding us in check was the app. It wasn’t consideration of others that kept us from producing a constant stream of 15-second clips. It was just the limits of technology — just like how, for years, we made a point of not using the phone on the toilet and it turned out that this was only because the cord did not reach that far.

*I assume this is what all Instagram videos are, but maybe I’m wrong.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.