GIFs for Every Occasion

I hope you enjoyed your turkey and your pie and your football and had a really wonderful Thanksgiving!

Before you get all ?!? on me, allow me to explain. I didn’t just throw that in there to make you feel uncomfortable (that’s just a bonus.)

Last week Oxford Dictionaries declared “GIF” the word of 2012. On its surface this seems like an odd choice, because GIFs, which compress multiple frames into moving image files like the terrifying TurKramer above, have been around since the late 80s, but this selection points not to the image type itself but to the way the word has changed to suggest more. In the past year they have risen to prominence as a particular form of online content fueled largely by Tumblrs that repurpose GIFs from familiar movies, TV shows, and memes by adding clever captions.

Clearly we’re living in an age of visual communication and connection–look no further than the rise of Instagram if you need convincing of this. But where Instagrams are about our individual experience, GIFs are about our shared experience.

For better or for worse, pop culture quotes are the cultural currency we carry largely because they are the common experience we share. The better: they provide a shorthand that instantly increases the level of connection and humor by not just delivering a punchline (or perhaps even just a statement that on its own would not be funny) but also connecting it to the hilarity of its original source. The worse: they can alienate those who aren’t familiar with the original source. Take the turkey/human image above–by posting it I am counting on the fact that you’re familiar with Seinfeld, the popular American sitcom that aired on NBC from 1989-1998. If you’re not, the image makes no sense and might be more than a little bit disturbing. You have to know your audience. For this reason GIFs seem to thrive most in communities centered around a specific experience (living in Chicagosingleness, or being a 20something in 2012).

As someone who frequently converses in TV and movie quotes, GIFs provide a perfect vehicle for expressing what is going on in my brain. I have had entire Gmail threads composed of nothing but GIFs. There is little that is more satisfying than finding the perfect GIF for a situation. Allow me to demonstrate.

Let’s say, for example, someone posted something of which I am envious. I might post this GIF:

How about I do something awesome and want people to know how great I feel about it? I might share this little number:

If I’m really excited about something, it’s simple:

When it comes to a party, the choice is obvious:

Maybe I’m shocked by something? BOOM:

Or perhaps you just want to prove to someone how much Bill Cosby embodies the spirit of Jello:

Less universal, sure, but unexpected and sure to bring a smile to even the most resolute GIF haters.

Ready to get out their and strut your stuff? Why not tell the world?

If you’re feeling incredibly ambitious you could even double your impact by combining a meme with a GIF, like such:
So I guess what I’m saying is this: we’re living in a golden age of GIFs. Embrace it. And learn the joy of a perfectly placed GIF.
And please, please share your favorite GIFs in the comments.

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