People who like GIFs (a series of images that create the impression of movement) are the same folks who slow down on the freeway to try to catch a glimpse of something gruesome after a car wreck. Ok, that’s a bit of an over-generalization taken out of context meant to be incendiary, which is a pretty good definition of an animated GIF.
There is a reason I’m on WordPress rather than Tumblr: I believe in writing. I believe in meticulously delving into an issue and exploring all possibilities and points of view. I believe in exposition rather than reductionism.
By definition, a GIF is reductive. It takes something that happens over time and reduces it to an easily consumed meme for short attention spans. Although some of these animations can be witty, artistic, political, and/or hilarious, something gets lost in the splicing of these images that reveals a disturbing trend on the internet and in society in general.
I get really annoyed driving in a car with my teenage cousins. They listen to a song on the radio that they “love,” and halfway through the song, they change the station until they find another song that they “love.” Since they never make it to the end of a song, there is no way in cyberspace that they are going to sit down and listen to an entire double record rock opera like The Who’s Quadrophenia or Pink Floyd‘s The Wall.
It’s not their fault, of course. YouTube made the 3 minute video the standard. Post anything over three minutes and you run the risk of not being clicked on at all. I just did a search for Quadrophenia on Youtube and found the entire film in two parts. Part one got 99,041 views and part two got only 31,611 views. That means that two thirds of the viewers didn’t even stick around to hear “Love Reign O’er Me.” That’s like watching Star Wars and leaving the theater before the Death Star gets blown up.
Animated GIFs are like YouTube on crack cocaine. Most of the GIFs I found were less than 5 seconds long. If we looked at these numbers in a different context maybe we could get some well needed perspective. Less than three minutes would be considered a premature ejaculation by most experts and 99% of sexual partners. Imagine a sexual experience that lasted as long as the average animated GIF. I hate to say it, but that is where we are headed. Even GIF artist Pamela Reed of Reed+Rader admits, “We get bored really, really quick, and it’s always about doing the next thing…” Luckily, the GIF is on an infinite loop, so there is no refractory period, but I don’t know any man in the history of humankind who is built this way–even the fictional character Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights comes up short–no pun intended.
All kidding aside, I’m seriously concerned with the effects of GIFs on our society. Even now, I am hesitant to click on the “Read more” link when I see “1,861 more words” while scrolling down the Reader of blogs that I follow. Yet I know that, like my meditation practice, I will be glad I put the time and effort into doing something that does not come with instant gratification. I can’t imagine how impatient I will get after years of consuming 4 second GIFs.
Moreover, GIFs are antithetical to two of the practices that I feel are essential to happiness: mindfulness and patience. If you read my blog, you know that I try to appreciate and be grateful for every moment, no matter how mundane, pedestrian, or painful. GIFs literally rob us of moments of tenderness, subtlety, and appreciation, leaving us with just pornography. (I might have overused the sexual analogy there, but I blame it on the “I CAME” GIF that is looping over and over as I try to write this critique.)
Some of you also know that my favorite quote from the Bible is James 1:2-4.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into trials;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
I believe that we need to “worketh” patience in order to be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” GIFs “worketh” impatience and desire. We want more and more with less and less patience. Let me ask fellow bloggers who took up this Weekly Writing Challenge, how many GIFs did you click on while writing your post? Didn’t it get addictive scrolling down a Tumblr page consuming all the available GIFs within seconds? Did you get sensory overload after a few pages? For some reason, while I was scrolling through page after page of GIFs, I started singing Green Day’s song “Longview“:
Sit around and watch the tube, but nothing’s on
I change the channels for an hour or two
Twiddle my thumbs just for a bit
I’m sick of all the same old s*#t
I don’t like how I’m feeling after a few hours of researching and writing this post, so I might go outside and find someone to hug. I do know, however, that I will never, ever, ever use GIFs in any of my posts ever.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.
Do you think I’m completely off base with this critique? One can argue that fast food has lead to the crisis of obesity in the US. What do you think the effects of “fast media” will be on our populace? Please share.