Gifs – Helping Avoid the Social Awkwardness of the Internet


Throughout the course of the internet, “Gifs,” (graphics interchange format) have become a popular method of socialization in media. They allow moments from TV shows, films, video games, and many other medias to be shared by people all over the world in one simple format. Gifs commence social cues between individuals that may not have been ignited without them, and they have become a new form of socialization and way of continuation in those bonds.  But, just what is it about gifs that make them so sociable?  Through my experience on a popular gif orientated site, Tumblr, I’ve noticed one series in particular whose gifs never fail to be funny – Bob’s Burgers.

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In this gif, Tina Belcher (eldest child in Bob’s Burgers) sensually dances for her crush, Jimmy Pesto Jr.

Now, what makes a gif of an awkward, animated girl so popular? It’s funny, and majority of tumblr users probably identify with it. No shame, but that’s just it.  Gifs are primarily used as a sense of expression that words no longer can convey.  They serve as social cues among individuals to capture internal emotions that sometimes words or text messages just don’t cut.  It’s become a new form of socialization in this consistently growing digital culture.

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That feeling you get when you make an A on a difficult assignment.

As stated by Nancy Baym, people associate “media characteristics as resources to pursue social and relational goals.” (Baym, 59) Gifs add to the online conversation and clear up possible misunderstandings.

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The spread of this socialization has not stopped in the form of gifs but into many remixes and mimicries as well.  These original ideas lead to the formation of new products. (Shifman, 19) For example, through mimcry many viewers are able to create their own sources of fanart and make recreations of a particular series.  Simple gifs of the Belcher family have evolved into a greater input in digital communication. (click for larger image)

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A fan made gif.

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Belcher family crochet.

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Original fanart.

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And even, cosplay.

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In the terms of remix, people crossover the simplicity of their interest to pertain to other interests, expanding once again the humor and sociability of the content.

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Tina crossover in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros.

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“Nighthawks,” by Edward Hopper aka “NightBurgers.”

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Queen Tina and Queen Beyonce.

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I’ll end this blog post with a gif I created of one of Tina’s most popular quotes.  Gifs provide to us laughter, but they also serve as sources to easily aid messages.  This enjoyable method of social activity is what will allow gifs to keep recurring and because on the inside, we are all secretly Tina Belcher.

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Sources:

Baym, Nancy K. “Communication in Digital Spaces.” Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. PDF.

Shifman, Limor. Memes In Digital Culture. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014. PDF.

Click on images/gifs for source.

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