Do GIFs Speak Louder Than Words?

Communication is not something unique to human kind. I’d venture to say most life forms, even the unicellular, have evolved methods to share information. We know that dolphins talk to each other through a complex language of clicks, and whales communicate through song. Bees alert each other to sources of food by dance and recently we learned they make “whoops” of surprise when they bump into each other. If injured by insects, plants emit volatile organic compounds into the air. These chemicals prompt nearby plants to release their own insect repellent – a neighborhood watch type of system. Bacteria also communicate chemically to estimate population density before synchronizing gene expression. For pathogenic bacteria, this type of communication allows them to gauge the size of their army before launching an attack on the unsuspecting host.  

So, how are we humans, with our “superior intellect”, communicating these days? What novel methods have we developed with our mastery of speech, the written word and art? If you take a scroll through my text messages, you’ll find an embarrassing shorthand of memes, GIFs and emojis. I have held entire conversations with my spouse of ten years comprised solely of Ron Swanson and Dwight Schrute quotes and expressions. #relationshipgoals?


Some might see this as a degradation of communication, but if I can perfectly express my thoughts and feelings through a GIF while interjecting a bit of irreverence and/or nostalgia into the conversation, then I’m all for it. Perhaps this is a natural progression for someone who already used a hybrid language of original thought, movie quotes and song lyrics.

While my new visual language certainly isn’t appropriate in all settings, I do use it daily with those I’m close to, including co-workers. GIFs can interject some much-needed levity into a busy day. For a bi-coastal office, such as ours, with folks who are frequently on the road, it provides a fun way to connect beyond email and conference calls.