In GIF We Trust

The limits of my language means the limits of my world. Ludwig WittgensteinRead more at-

I’m pretty hilarious on Twitter. You should probably check it out if you haven’t seen it before (SHAMELESS TWITTER PLUG). And I love just about any place that I get to chat with people and make connections. And despite the wars over how to pronounce the word: the GIF is one of the most mutually understood forms of communication that this fair Internet has created.

And for those of you who get the immense fortune of following me on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me use GIFs to communicate a lot of rather complex emotions. I’m quite the prince of GIFs and have been known to use them pretty expertly.

But when does a GIF mean more than a GIF and is it just a lazy tool or a secretly genius way to communicate things that are at times, difficult to communicate?

Okay, so like, both is the answer, really. Sometimes, yes, it’s because I didn’t have anything clever or witty to say and someone else had already. Sometimes, they’re just cute and have nothing to do with anything and just are cute. And sometimes they fit PERFECTLY into a conversation.

I have a weird relationship with GIFs and shorthand (I’ve written a ton of posts about it) and the GIF is also a strange piece of modern communication. Is it a word? Does it replace a word? Are they universal in meaning or the most subjective?

I do think people are sometimes too rigid with language. People immediately scoff and write off these common uses of language as “not real” or “not important” to which is odd considering how we still have a love/hate relationship with slang. PBS Idea Channel did a great video on the very topic.

In places GIFs are a cheap way to communicate. They’re a great stand-in for lots of words. In other places they’re a wonderfully not so subtle way to convey so many emotions. With a single GIF I can show support, disgust, shock and admiration. They’re also pretty short and it doesn’t take me a long time to find one that fits the situation. I think of GIFs as having the perfect card on stock to send out in a hurry to any friend in a situation. Baby shower? Here, let me get this in the mail. Death in the family? Bless my stars, let me sign this and get it to the postman. (How very Southern of me.) I keep reaction GIFs on standby. Just in case. And I certainly hope that I am more than just my reaction GIF. (Another PBS Idea Channel link here.)

And the state of GIFs? It’s a matter of taste. If you’re okay with language at times taking a backseat: then awesome, GIF away. If you for some reason think that language is strict and must look like one thing: then there’s some Jacques Derrida that I suggest you pick up. And if you want to say that I am somehow less creative or less of a writer for my use of GIFs? Well, hold on, wait a minute.

This comes up a lot. That when you use something that substitutes language, you bastardize it. There are plenty of moments that sometimes there’s no need for words. And most of the time there are words that make sense. And of course there are times when a GIF is not valid. I can’t imagine posting something about losing a loved one or a job and someone responding with a sympathetic GIF in the same way that in those instances, a phone call would barely suffice.

Language is a complex discussion topic and we’ve had fun talking about language this month, haven’t we? This post was short and sweet, just like a Reaction GIF.

If you have a favorite GIF, I’d love to see it! Show it to me on my Twitter!




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I'm just your everyday human person with a keen eye for what's really happening. Be prepared for wit, humor and Dr. Who references. Loves include anime, writing, eating sweets, art and visits to the park to feed the ducks.

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