Replacing Words with GIFs

What are these short videos that loop forever? The ones that are sent from person to person for humorous purposes with the idea of displaying something instead of saying it. GIFs can be the funniest thing you’ve ever received or sent, but finding the perfect visual representation of what you want to say can be difficult. With the incorporation of GIF keyboards on many social media platforms and smartphones, the use of GIFs in social media has increased significantly. However, will GIFs really be sufficient to ever fully replace words?

Some claim that words are more descriptive and more efficient than GIFs. How can a six-second looping video be more descriptive than words? Why don’t we just send a meme instead? Sure, sometimes, you can’t even be sure what the sender is trying to say through GIFs. By sending a visual representation of our thoughts, we are leaving the reader to interpret the message to their desire instead of explicitly saying it. There are some times when GIFs just don’t work.

The question of when to send a GIF really lies within context. When sending a GIF, timing can be crucial. When the group chat is rapidly firing texts and you want to join the conversation by making a witty comment, is it worth taking the time to look for a GIF or would you be better off with words? When you need to tell your parents that you failed a test, would you send them a GIF? Although GIFs can be funny, they can never fully encapture what we want to say. It’s like replying to a question with actions.

However, our creative generation found a way to prove this wrong. We created a different GIF for almost every possible situation. Through the culmination of over a billion GIFs on Giphy, the app lets you pick and choose your desired video almost instantaneously. Want to make light of a sad situation, why not type in “Crying Michael Jordan” and send a funny video. Happy about something? Send the video of Flash the Sloth from Zootopia.

We as a society have grown to accept visual representation. Let’s face it, when was the last time you saw an ad that had more words than pictures. GIFs are effectively doing the same thing by shortening what we want to say through the use of pictures and videos.

Overall, the use of GIFs is a trend that is likely to keep growing, especially due to modern society’s preference for efficiency over clarity and quality. Although GIFs have their flaws, it’s undeniable that these will ever go away. Besides, who wouldn’t want to receive a funny GIF to brighten up their day?

Daniel Son
staff writer

Graphic: Emma McCarthy

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