Vibe Check: Social media impressionism

Josh Constine's newsletter #8: Automatic AI video editor TRASH, plus my free "Intro To Startup PR" masterclass

If Facebook and Insta’s auto-biographical realism was the first mainstream social media format, Twitter’s pithy thought leadership was the second, and TikTok’s storyboarded micro-entertainment ws the third, then the next is the “vibe check” — a non-narrative collage of personal content that conveys a vague emotion.

This Monet-inspired style of creation simulates a hazy memory. It’s gaining popularity as an antidote to the harsh facts of what’s going on in the world, led by an app called TRASH.

TRASH @theTRASHapp
have you checked out @avalonlurks profile on
mag.trash.app yet? get to know the musician and see what else she made with TRASH🧚‍♀️#trashed #trashangels

A vibe check is like a video mood board. It combines haphazardly edited clips or photo slideshows with music and filters to make a montage more akin to art than utilitarian communication. If text clinically dissects a scene, and traditional imagery depicts it objectively, a vibe check offers a subjective interpretation of what it felt like to be there, or for a moment, be someone.

The vibe check evolved from “aesthetic Vine” that presented abstract shots of rainy windowsills or lush forest waterfalls to tranquilize their viewers. Another ancestor is the 1 Second Everday app for stitching together a video diary. More recently, vibe check-esque clips have emerged on TikTok as the artsiest cinematographers apply its many manual editing tools or resort to desktop software.

The term “vibe” has also come to generally mean a “good mood or positive disposition. Some creators have instituted “mandatory vibe checks” where they pass judgement on something’s level of chill, with TikToker Daniel Spencer declaring that white supremacists and those disobeying shelter-in-place have unequivocally failed their checks.

Google, Apple, and Magisto’s attempts at auto-edited video

Until now, the artistic medium has been locked behind the prerequisites of patience and video editing skills. They take work and time to make. The iPhone’s Photo Memories and Google Photos’ Movies have tried to simplify video editing with themes that turn a bunch of media into a vacation recap or happy birthday sequence. Unfortunately, they often come across as saccharine or trying too hard. Corny music, exagerated transitions, and a 90s TV dad sensibility makes them ineligible for composing shorter, more subtle vibe checks.

But the first of what I expect to be a wave of tools to democratize this social media format has just arrived. Artificial intelligence video editing app TRASH is launching a tool purpose-built for creating vibe checks. You just select a couple short videos, and Trash’s AI does its best to collage them into something artful with zero directorial input. You can then massage the personality of your video by choosing from styles like “Hype”, “Laid Back”, “Artsy”, or “Classic”, as well applying controls for the music, filters, clip order, and how fast it jumps between them.

“TRASH isn’t about creating the perfect video or telling an exact story, which is traditionally what film and video had been about (having an idea, shooting the scenes for that concept and editing it together). TRASH turns your Stories into dreams” explains the startup’s co-founder Hannah Donovan. The cool comes from remaining aloof.

The Vibe Check feature officially launches on TRASH tomorrow but Donovan let me give an exclusive early look to my newsletter readers. It lets you share your TRASH compositions to Snapchat with a “Vibe Check” poll sticker friends can answer. It’s a savvy growth hack, as well as an attempt to spread awareness of this budding medium.

The TRASH name stems from making treasure out of the random stuff you’ve shot on your phone. AI opens the door to this artistic mindset. “For people who are intimidated by video or don’t think they know how, the magic moment of getting that first rough cut back from our AI is really special for them. People feel blocked by the blank canvas and the i’m-not-good-enough monster” says Donovan, who was the general manager at Vine before Twitter destroyed it.

I threw a few clips from a walk along the Bay followed by dinner at home into TRASH, and it came out surprisingly…vibey, with little editorial input required. Here’s a few more I enjoyed from the Venice boardwalk, aimless nights with friends, and a wedding proposal. While AI might not be able to truly understand beauty just yet, it can fake it well enough to assist with this video collage format when it would fall far short of making anything with a coherent story.

TRASH has a headstart on building this AI, but I’d bet on Instagram and TikTok trying their best to copy it. Offering an automatic video editor feels like a natural next step from TikTok’s themed photo slideshow templates and Instagram’s Superzoom gags.

Honestly, I’m fine with that if it gets more people creating. When asking someone “how are you doing?” just prompts exhaustion due to *motions at everything*, we need new ways to convey our feels. Like visual ASMR, vibe checks let us generate stimuli for others, without the need for or the energy to concoct an explicit message. Vibe checks could be the first step towards making us comfortable with self-expression from the heart, not just the head.

Exciting Tidbits

  • Japanese politicians are using the social map app Zenly that Snapchat acquired to prove they’ve actually traversed the place they want to govern, via CEO Antoine Martin

  • GoMeta’s app Koji lets you remix not only memes but games that you can then share to social media. I think mini-game development will be the next creator/influencer space after video.

  • Magnet is my new favorite productivity tool. The $3 app lets you drag Mac windows to the sides or corners of your desktop to instantly resize them to half or a quarter of the screen. via Cherie Hu on YourStack

And some hotness from SignalFire portfolio companies:

Intro To Startup PR

Finally, this week I taught a video masterclass at Collision about the risks and rewards of startup PR, how to pick which reporters and publications to pitch, and more. You can watch my Startup PR 101 video here. I’ll also be sharing more PR tips in the newsletter over time, and you’re always welcome to reply to this newsletter with questions or pitches for me! Thanks for reading!