The animated TV show Archer is what one might call extremely “GIF-able”. This is mostly because of the ability of its characters to represent common emotions, thus creating reaction GIFs, and because of the long-running jokes within the show that can be GIF-ed, shared and appreciated among members of the Archer fan base.
Nancy K. Baym talks in her book “Personal Connections in the Digital age” about reduced social cues. Through a study she conducted in 2002 she concluded that “mediated communication is seen as a diminished form of face to face conversation” (Baym) because people in general seem to have a less personal or intimate experience when conversing on the phone or Internet. GIFS serve a unique purpose in the ever-changing world of digital communication as they can somewhat restore social cues to Internet based communication.
This GIF can be used as a reaction to someone saying something gross, as a comment to a graphic picture or maybe even as a way to emphasize the severity of one’s hangover. Reaction GIFs put a face to the form of communication that notoriously lacks the intimacy of actual face-to-face conversation. They help to specify emotions and avoid miscommunication between writer and reader.
Limor Shifman asserts that “memes maybe be best understood as pieces of cultural information that pass along from person to person, but gradually scale into a shared social phenomenon.” (Memes in Digital Culture, 2014) Archer GIFs exemplify this concept well because certain jokes in the show reoccur throughout the series and GIF-ing them allows them to be easily shared from fan to fan and eventually be shared enough to somewhat loose its exact context and resonate with a larger audience.
An Archer fan might see the above GIF and laugh because it’s a stereotypical Sterling Archer thing to say, as it is a running joke on the show that Archer is extremely egotistical. A random person that has no knowledge of the show might see this and share it just because the self-centered nature of the GIF in itself is funny and could possibly be applied as a reaction GIF in various situations.
I made the above GIF because it fits into both categories I’ve just talked about. It could function as a reaction GIF or as “social phenomenon” surrounding the fan base of Archer.