With the pandemic making virtual conversations the new norm, people have switched to different modes of communication. Everyone interacts with emojis, memes, and GIFs on day to day basis, whether you include a funny GIF in an email to a coworker, text an emoji to a friend, or even see one in an advertisement. They have become so common in day to day communication that they have become mainstream.
One might wonder, what contributes to their relevance.
GIFs and Emojis bring tone and clarity back into electronic communication. They add a way for individuals to react to a digital conversation as if it were a face-to-face conversation. While text messages on social media are highly likely to get misinterpreted, GIFs and emojis clarify intent, lighten the tone, and grab the attention of the receiver.
It started all started with Emoticons that evolved into pictorial emojis and then memes that evolved into animated GIFs. How will these emotional digital reactions continue to evolve? Do these visual elements actually represent the emotional response of an in-person conversation or is the emotional response only happening because a visual is included?
Memes: The concept of a meme was created in 1976 by biologist, Richard Dawkins when he came up with the idea that ideas are like organisms that can spread and mutate. He also said some are more likely to spread than others, i.e. some memes are more likely to go viral than others.
GIF (Graphic Interchange Format) is actually 30 years old. Today we know GIFs as short, looping animations, but they actually started out in 1986 as a way to display still images, much like how today we use PNG.
However, some argue that emojis and memes have become so mainstream they have the contrasting effect. They are said to make communication less personal. Also that the emoji isn’t a reaction to the emotion, but that the emotion is dictated because of the emoji. That the only way to truly display emotion in digital communication is with the written word.