Last week, Google released a new, GIF-friendly keyboard that lets you choose from a selection of fun animations. Perhaps you're feeling particularly Mr. Bean-frowning-against-a-blue-background. Or maybe you're in more of a you-go-glenn-coco-scene-from-Mean-Girls mood. That's fine. But when it comes time to express those feelings, please, for the love of god, use your words. Because these basic, unoriginal thoughts are not what GIFs are for.
The GIF libraries of the world (which is to say, Giphy, Twitter, Google, Riffsy, what have you) offer a selection of popular stock animations you can whip out at your leisure. Unfortunately, popular almost always translates to trite or terrible, and the world of GIFs is no exception. There is no reason anyone should be granted easy access to a Mean Girls GIF at any time; they're lazy, shallow and offensive to the very art of the GIF itself.
And yet — download these keyboards, use these Chrome extensions, and that is exactly what you'll find. How fun, your friends might say as they realise that their favourite bits of looping garbage are just a thumb tap away, expressing all the things they can't be bothered to say. So they type "yay" into Giphy, and they give you this.
They search for "hmm" and toss you this.
The mark of the sociopath.
Or instead of saying "I'm sorry" for some petty grievance, they commit a far worse crime — they send you this:
And you begin to weep blood.
GIFs are always going to be a little bit obnoxious. They're impossible to look away from until they leave the screen, so you better make your GIF count. A GIF of Harry Styles twitching his facial muscle will never count. It serves no funny, clever, particularly expressive purpose. Instead, be a compassionate friend, and send this instead: ????. For the emoji is mercifully small, far less abrasive and just as easy to tap.
But more than just being obnoxious, the GIFs you find in set libraries will always be ever so slightly off. The stock GIF is the friend or colleague who speaks entirely in vaguely inappropriate movie quotes. Imagine your boss congratulating you on a job well-done by screaming across the room, "You're my boy, Blue!" A co-worker putting on an Austin Powers inflection to say, "Yeah, baby!" "Very nice", you hear from afar as you pray for a stroke to make the pain stop.
After all, the good GIFs, the true and beautiful GIFs, are not going to be found in any app. GIFs like this, for instance.
Or even this.
If you find yourself unable to express yourself in words, and you don't already have the perfect GIF in mind, then please, for all our sakes, use an emoji. It's quiet and inoffensive — the graphic equivalent of a shrug. Your friends and feeds will thank you.