For some, the best way to reply to a message isn't with words (so 2003!) but with a GIF, those short animations, just a few seconds long, usually drawn from a popular movie or video footage. From that perspective, the image of President Obama's head on Beyonc's body doing a sassy dance in outer space, while riding a pizza, is the best thing the internet ever gave us. In recent years, the animated GIF has made the jump from email chains and message boards to art galleries and museum exhibitions. New York's Museum of the Moving Image was recently host to "The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture," a show whose curator culled his selections from a Reddit thread.
To really learn about GIFs, though, the Obi Wan to seek out is Tyler Menzel, editorial director (he'd prefer Notorious G.I.F.) at Giphy, the most popular GIF search engine. Menzel sees and tags thousands of animated images every day. "I'd like to meet the person who sees more than I do and doesn't get paid for it," he tells Sideshow's Sean Rameswaram.
Sean and Tyler discuss the fine art of sending the perfect reaction GIF. Tyler explains his devotion to GIFs drawn from the anime series Sailor Moon, representing as they do "the essential human emotions: hunger, love, and sadness. "If you're feeling things other than that, you're wasting your energy." He also acknowledges that the form has its limitations. "GIFs are supposed to be fun," he says; you can send a reaction GIF to bad news, but not real bad news. If there's a perfect GIF for the news that someone has died, Tyler hasn't tagged it yet.