• Becky Robison

Anatomy of a GIF

When I took over the Split Lip Twitter feed, I had no preconceived plan to make it a GIF-heavy space. I don’t typically use GIFs in my own social media accounts—in fact, I have very few friends who do. What can I say? I run with a wordy crowd. But when I started incorporating GIFs into the Split Lip feed, I noticed that those tweets seemed to be the most popular.

I decided to roll with it.

And the thing is, GIFs are wordy—or at least the process of finding good GIFs requires a special kind of vocabulary and grammar. “Thanks” produces different results than “thx” or “ty.” “Thumbs up” produces different results than “👍.” Locating GIFs requires me to be a walking thesaurus and slang dictionary.

I often search for terms or concepts that you might expect, like “congrats” or “hooray” or “awesome” or “applause.” But my favorite finds occur when I’m trying to match a GIF to a line within the poem, story, or memoir that I’m sharing.

Recently I was promoting contributor Chloe N. Clark’s new work in Cosmonauts Avenue, and I was struck by the first line of her story: “His date had neon pink shellacked fingernails.” I realized that if I could find a GIF of someone painting their fingernails pink, it would not only match the story itself, but also the “💅” emoji, which suggests a humorously blasé attitude. Clark is such a good writer that it was easy for her to turn out this amazing piece.

I searched “pink fingernails,” and et voilà:

For another example, take a look at the tweet promoting K.C. Mead-Brewer’s creepy-as-hell story “Pulling Out” from our October issue:

To find this GIF, I started out by searching “staring.” Then “stare.” Then “creepy staring.” Then I realized I should just search “Rosemary’s Baby GIF,” since my sister was watching it on TV at the time. Clearly, I struck gold. Hail Satan!

If you’re interested, there are several fascinating articles about GIF usage out there. Lauren Michele Jackson’s op-ed about digital blackface in Teen Vogue is a must.

It may seem unusual for a lit mag to communicate via animated pictures—but then, don’t we all love Split Lip because it’s unusual?

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