The most common use of gifs that I have seen are as reactions gifs, where a person will post a specific gif to add some sort of context to their feelings or how they reacted to seeing a picture, video, text post, etc. Usually the reason to use a gif is to add a comical emotion to the posters feeling or reaction as opposed to something more serious. A good example of a reaction gif is Kramer from the television show Seinfeld due to his outgoing and eccentric characteristics that lead to nonsensical and humorous outbursts. Kramer make great reaction gifs because the context of the television show is a comedy sitcom, so when a viewer familiar with Seinfeld sees the gif they immediately think of it as a funny response.
Some of the gifs I chose of Kramer are single purpose gifs, in which they can only represent one emotion, for the most part. Gifs such as these:
Depending on the context that the gifs are posted they can have different meanings, but the gif itself only gives off one emotion. These two in particular express shock or confusion or even a disturbance in a funny manner. These two gifs are more focused on facial expressions and strange movements and are best used as reactions, whereas the two gifs below have multiple purposes and are better used as responses than reactions.
These gifs, unlike the reaction gifs, focus more on the text and the action of the subject in the gif instead of the facial features. In this case, the text says it all, while in the reaction gifs the face does. The text in a gif adds another layer to what is being expressed by clearly stating what a poster is trying to say. The textless gifs on the other hand tend to be more ambiguous.
The Kramer gif I created in photoshop is more similar to the reaction gifs than the response gifs. It doesn’t have any text, focuses more on the goofy movement of Kramer,and expresses one clear meaning, that being rushed and hurriedly trying to get somewhere. The reason I chose this particular scene was because it was the most visual funny moment I saw of Kramer after watching a few episode of Seinfeld that did not require any sort of text.
From what I have seen, gifs are dominantly used as digital social cues, however they are very limited in what they can represent. While gifs do allow an emotion to be perceived through it, a gif most often gives the emotion a funny connotation because it’s challenging to capture any other emotion through a gif since it has become the standard through social media that gifs are supposed to be funny. Humor can easily be captured in a couple of seconds, jokes for example can be funny while only being one or two sentences. Other moods such as suspense or sadness require more detail than a 3-5 second mute gif can provide. (Baym)
Besides expressing emotion, gifs can influence and establish communities, which result in what Limor Shifman calls shared social phenomenon. Shifman states, “memes shape the mindsets, forms of behavior, and actions of social groups”, this is very true (Shifman, 18). In regards to Kramer gifs, there is an entire Reddit community with about 5,000 followers called /r/kramergifs that’s dedicated to creating and posting gifs exclusively of Kramer because of peoples love for his character. Many of the gifs posted aren’t even used as response or reaction gifs, they’re just peoples favorite scenes of Kramer posted as a gif.
Baym, Nancy K. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge: Polity, 2010. Print.
Shifman, Limor. “When Memes Go Digital.” Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT, 1974. 18. Print.