For many, Twitter finally jumping on the GIF bandwagon and allowing people to post looped images below their tweets is long past overdue. It might help explain why previous Twitter adherents left for other social media horizons since GIFs have been a part of the Internet landscape for almost a generation now. Back when I first started on the net in the late 1990s, GIFs were already being plastered on message boards everywhere as the early age of social media. And because it sometimes usurped too much bandwidth, moderators on message boards usually took them down, despite enhancing posts with some kind of visual comedic subtext to a comment.
Perhaps those people were the beginnings of a contingent of people who’ve hated GIFs over the last 15 years. You’re not going to find everyone who loves seeing a looped OCD image repeating ad infinitum. While it depends on what the image might be, will we see a battle on Twitter play out over those who get annoyed at GIFs and those who can’t live without them?
Why Would There Be a Divide Over Looping Images?
Old school Internet buffs remember the days when things were much more primitive and not having a comment full of fluff and visualizations to try and get everyone’s attention. While GIFs were used on message boards, they were still rare and only used occasionally. They also were limited and perhaps even more annoying to some because they could only capture about one second of movement. Now they can capture up to 30 seconds of movement to almost be the equivalent of a silent Vine video.
The problem some might have with these GIFs is in what kind of visual gets used, as in someone being overly histrionic in comparison to a calmer image. When you see a person or pet doing a wild gesticulation or move, seeing it play into infinity can be a potential annoyance for some who has to see it in their Twitter stream all day. At least with Vine videos, you have a choice whether to view the video or not. With Twitter GIFs, they’ll be there to see all day, including (somehow) going into the Library of Congress for posterity so future generations can one day figure us out.
In that regard, there may have to be a bit of an etiquette formed on Twitter regarding GIFs, just as there usually is with not being annoying in general to one’s followers.
Posting GIFs in the Proper Comedic Context
That possible divide between those who find GIFs annoying and those who don’t may have to come to some kind of compromise eventually. Most people use GIFs to bring some sense of irony to a comment rather than just post them to annoy people. Then again, when given a giant cake on social media, more than a few are going to eat all of it. The abuse of GIFs may end up creating some strife on Twitter that may make the current fighting on there in recent years look tame in comparison. While it’s going to depend on your own followers what the outcome of that is going to be, what kind of comedic context should you use with a GIF?
It seems the best ones are an image taken directly from old and current pop culture where the movement isn’t overly annoying. Some of them taken from old pop culture give you a chance to see a scene from an old music video or movie you never noticed before. For instance, Wired posted a GIF showing Michael Jackson eating popcorn in a theater and taken from his “Thriller” music video, a scene we hadn’t really honed in on before.
When placed in those contexts, GIFs can be hilarious, insightful, and fun. Even so, Twitter should acknowledge that not everyone is going to love them. There should be a pause or close button on every GIF to make them visible or not. It can be the same equivalent to the mute button Twitter just revealed recently that nobody wants to admit they’re using regularly.
Also, to prove there’s a possible age divide on understanding the role of GIFs, there seems to be those who pronounce them “Jifs” and others who say “gifs” literally. With President Obama recently pronouncing them with the former pronunciation, you can already see an age divide on truly comprehending their role in pop culture. Regardless, once President Obama or Michelle Obama start posting GIFs on Twitter, you know GIFs will have truly arrived after two decades.