Y2K Aesthetic Is New Again in Cybertwee, My Pastel Cyberspace Paradise


Technology doesn't have to be hard or stark. It can be pretty and girly and adorable. 

I'm obsessed with the nostalgia-tinted techno-sparkle of cybertwee, which celebrates romanticism, femininity and cuteness. "We are fragmented and multifaceted bbs," proclaims the cybertwee manifesto. In full:

The singularity is dear.

A butterfly gently landing on Prince's shoulder, pastel-colored optical illusion GIFs and Britney Spears embracing a Sony Aibo robot dog — these are the images I have been joyously lapping up since I joined the private cybertwee Facebook group. Cybertwee, which the creators describe in a Kickstarter listing as "if cyberpunk had a cute kid sister who was secretly better at hacking," is the digital manifestation of the quaint, pretty or sentimental, or "twee." 


So when Instagram ditched its skeuomorphic brown logo, which was more true-to-life, for a softer, vibrant sunset-gradient, I thought — there's a dash of cybertwee here. Has the movement finally seeped into the Silicon Valley coders' subconscious? God I hope so. 


I turned to the three human pillars of the cybertwee palace — Gabriella Hileman, Violet Forest and May Waver — to find out if the new Instagram logo is cybertwee. 

"It's kind of cybertwee," Forest said in an email. "I feel like it's not future enough." She thinks it could include an animated css3 gradient similar to Ello's design — meaning integrating animated GIFs. 


Your move, Kevin Systrom

"Naturally people feel alienated by change and are going to freak out any time their routine gets mixed up," Hileman said.

And she is correct. People went apeshit. When Instagram unveiled the new logo on Wednesday, memes, tweets and outraged comments splattered the web from users angered over the stark design change. She continued, "While cybertwee obviously has a place for the aesthetic of the gradient and the use of similar colors, I think it also celebrates some elements of skeuomorphic design, which has recently become outmoded, such as a celebration of ornateness and detail for the sake of beauty. I think those ideas traditionally go hand in hand with a long historical culture of femininity."


Both Hileman and Forest echoed a sentiment that Instagram's new logo has a dash of cybertwee in its colorful gradient and bold feminine color choices, but to achieve full cybertwee, it would've needed to keep its skeuomorphic design and throw in some movement. 

"It makes sense that Instagram would move on to a trend that fits how people use the app now — less analog fetish, more digital fetish," Waver said. 

She added that the idea of vintage as a symbol of authenticity is played out, which is evident in Instagram's move from a '60s film camera to something more aesthetically modern.

As Broadly boldly claimed, "Cybertwee Artists Are Overriding the Patriarchy with Cuteness." The predominantly white male engineers of Silicon Valley could benefit with a splash of cybertwee — ditching the blues, yellows and greens traditionally associated with tech overlord logos for something more charming and colorful and, dare I say it — feminine. I mean, look at my social media app folder:

Melanie Ehrenkranz/Mic

Skimming through the ornate, techno-sparkle cybertwee universe, I can't help but think the World Wide Web would be a more endearing void if it adopted a hint of cybertwee.