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The Ultimate Guide To GIF Etiquette

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We're entering a new era of communication. Our previous vernacular can no longer keep up with the great deal of emotions and #feels we experience hourly. A casual "lol" has become a passive-aggressive dismissal of a not-so-funny joke. It says: "I'm humoring you by making you think I find said joke humorous." You might as well just send or say "k" because that's really what your "lol" is saying. Internet lingo has shifted the focus away from the words to how they're formed. Capitalizing "LOL," for instance, tends to lend a positive voice to a conversation; "kk" is the polite acknowledgement of a verdict. A true master, however, doesn't need characters to get his or her point across. A true master uses images — moving images to be precise — that get right to the emotion of the situation rather than the words.
Enter the GIF, the graphic image format that the Internet surfs its own waves on. There's a GIF for every situation, every emotion, and every personality. Choosing one can be exhausting — daunting, even, because the fear of using the wrong one (FOGO, a.k.a. the Fear Of GIF Offending, a term we're inventing right here, right now) is overpowering. You want to seem "with it" or risk losing your Internet reputation.
So, we decided it was about time a proper etiquette guide to GIF'ing was written. With the help of the GIF-curating pros over at Giphy and the man behind Cheezburger (among many other memes we've consumed), Ben Huh, we've compiled a comprehensive how-to guide for GIF using. Read it, study it, own it, heck, become it. Consider this our gif(t) to you.
Opener Illustrated by Sydney Hass; Photo: via Giphy.
The GIF as an art form is a bit trickier. Rather than use it to communicate an emotion, it's used to capture a moment like a cinemagraph. "It’s about sitting there and enjoying the moment," Huh says, "rather than trying to understand a message.”
We're going to stick with the GIF as language. Onwards...
Photo: via Giphy.
Photo: via Giphy.
Photo: via Giphy.
Photo: via Giphy.
Photo: via Giphy.
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