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…

 
 

Want to talk to us about the article
or dive into a custom study?


The Newsfeed

Quote of the Day: “My 2017 resolution is to improve my dog's confidence- She's somewhat fearful.”—Female, 28, PA

At some malls, teens “have worn our their welcome.” Cases of teens banding together on social media and going to malls to create chaos have reportedly been increasing over recent years. To avoid giving consumers another reason to shop online, some shopping centers—105 in the U.S. according to the International Council of Shopping Centers—have responded by imposing curfews and bans on the young consumers. The legality of such restrictions has been called to question, with the ACLU working to fight discrimination at play. (LA Times)

Millennial parents are getting by with a little—ok, maybe a lot—of help from their own parents. A TD Ameritrade survey has found that 19-37-year-olds who have kids get $11,000 on average from their parents through financial support or unpaid labor, and more than half get assistance through childcare or housekeeping weekly. But the assistance isn’t one-sided: three-quarters of 50-70-year-olds with Millennial children say they’re glad to help, and four in ten Millennials say they help their parents too, with an average of $2000 in 2016. (USA TODAYBusiness Wire)

The NFL is looking outside their traditional playbook to reach young fans. The league has partnered with AwesomenessTV for In The NFL, a new series that “lifts the curtain” to give a behind-the-scenes look at the sport. Since "a 17-year-old girl doesn't want to watch the same content as her mom or her dad,” some episodes have a young female focus, with one starring YouTube stars the Merrell twins taking a tour of a stadium, and another featuring one of the few female owners in the NFL, Kim Pegula, offering career tips to young women. (Adweek)

Can the future generation of shoppers save brick-and-mortar retail? Maybe. A new IBM and National Retail Federation study has revealed that 67% of 13-21-year-olds shop in-store most of the time, while another 31% occasionally buy from them. One analyst notes that their desire for “hands-on experience” is setting their preferences, but lack of credit cards and life stage are also likely forces deterring them from online shopping—and we predict that if fintech solutions are developed with teens in mind it could be a fatal blow for physical teen retailers. (RackedBusiness Wire

The sharing economy may be impacting Millennial spending. Research by Hammerson and retail consultant Verdict found that more than half of Millennials used a sharing economy business like Uber or Airbnb in the last year, compared to 16.2% of those over 35-years-old. Nearly a quarter of Millennials say they aren’t concerned about home ownership and would be content with renting for the rest of their lives, and when compared to those over 35-year-olds, they're two times more likely to agree that there are some products they don’t need to own and would prefer to rent. (Forbes

Quote of the Day: “My 2017 resolution is to live my life the way Carrie Fisher would have wanted me to.”—Female, 21, TX

Sign Up Now

Subscribe for premium access to our content, data, and tools.

Already a subscriber? Sign in.

Upgrade Now

Upgrade for full access to the best marketing tools for understanding the next generation.

View our Client Case Studies