Why GIFs Became the Sweetheart of the Internet

 

Is it too early to crown the GIF the internet star of 2013? Though the format has been in use since the early days of websites, there has been a proliferation of GIF use among young consumers of late that has pushed the once lowly image file into the spotlight. What is it about the GIF format that has captured the hearts of hoards of Tumblr users, internet commenters, and viral bloggers?

For readers who aren’t familiar with the GIF, they are short, endlessly-looped video files that appear to play a few seconds of action on eternal replay. The New Republic wrote an extensive history of the medium and its rise from 90s junk animation to art form. Today, GIFs have become an integral part of the way internet users (often led by Gen Y) talk to one another. They appear as reactions to blog articles, are created and shared by fan communities on Tumblr and elsewhere to celebrate moments in TV and movies, are emailed as exclamations and emotional outbursts. In short, they have become the second language of the internet.

So why GIFs, and why now? Millennials, always a very image-reliant generation, have continued to gravitate towards visual communication. With the strengthening popularity of Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and Snapchat, we could almost see them reaching a tipping point where visuals actually usurp text communication in common use. When you are a group who communicates by majority in visuals, those visuals have to evolve in order to fully capture the emotion you are trying to convey. (We saw a similar evolution in the simple emoticon, which began as a finite combination of punctuations and have become a legion of animated faces and objects stored on your phone for easy access and hieroglyphic-esque messaging.) Layer on top of this the fact that Millennials have also…

 
 
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Millennial News Feed

Quote of the Day: "A benefit of unplugging is getting a more personal view of the world back. (Social media tends to distort your perception to bend to what others are thinking/feeling/saying/doing.)” —Female, 25, MN

Liam Matthews, a teenager from New Zealand, has grown his Instagram following from under 150,000 to over 1.5 million in the course of a year by combining celebrity glamour shots with DIY cross-dressing. His profile documents his attempts to mimic the looks of young female celebrities using fabric scraps, an array of wigs, and strategically placed ramen noodles. Sticking to side-by-side comparison images and a focus on the most popular young celebrities, Matthews has struck a format that makes imitation the sincerest form of humor. (Uproxx)

Every brand seem to want their own hashtag catchphrase, but authenticity and sheer common sense are being compromised by some in pursuit of the viral tag. Over the course of 12 hours, one writer noticed 39 distinct hashtags, including #unseenacne for Neutrogena which was deemed “#FreakingGross” by one Twitter user and a #sorrynotsorry copycat from Equinox coined #preapologize. While the latter has seen 1.2 million impressions (many from the company and its employees), some have been so confused by the wording that they had to ask Equinox directly what it was supposed to mean. (WSJ)

Good thing OKCupid users aren’t raising much alarm over recent experiments conducted on them, because the company is unapologetic. The three experiments that faked matchmaking results and manipulated conversations were detailed in full on OKCupid’s trends blog under the title "We Experiment on Human Beings!" Internet skeptical Millennials are used to their data being used behind-the-scenes, and may not have as much issue with OKCupid as other tests made public (like those from Facebook) because “experimentation in dating is part of the process” to improve matches. (NYT

Transparency communication is the new buzzword at Johnson & Johnson who has started a movement to win over Millennial moms. The first ad in the planned 40-plus series announces that they will remove controversial ingredients from their products and reminds viewers that J&J employees are parents themselves, having them write 1,000 promises to reflect the company's dedication to change. Future video series will serve to debunk myths, educate new parents, and connect them through social media forums. (AdAge)

A Disney princess clothing collection from BlackMilk, featuring Snow White bomber jackets, mermaid leggings, and Hakuna Matata skater skirts, is selling out. Mind you, this collection is made for adult females. We took a look at what happens when the princesses grow up, and discovered that Millennials are eager to co-opt Disney imagery and update it to fit with their current lifestyles. Though some don't appreciate their favorite animations being slapped onto skintight clothing, the bold and graphic prints clearly appeal to some and would probably make for some unique rave gear. (Jezebel)

Quote of the Day: “In the future, I'd like to pay off my student loans and not starve or get evicted. A stable job would be nice.” –Male, 26, PA

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