The end of the internet age of the millennium

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Millennials are seeing web versions slip away and even dismissed as “annoying.” Kaitlyn Tiffany and I discuss the GIF, the Millennial hiatus, and how Gen Z is changing the way we communicate online.

But first, there are three new stories Atlantic.

Free and stupid?

Kate Lindsay: Your recent article, “The GIF is on its deathbed,” really resonated online. What are GIFs and how important are they to the web?

Kaitlyn Tiffany: GIF was one of the Internet’s earliest file formats (it’s short for “graphics interchange format”) and was introduced in the days of CompuServe, AOL, and later the Netscape browser. The first heyday of GIFs was on the first GeoCities personal webpages, but when I was in high school, nearly a decade later, people were still wallpapering their MySpace pages with GIFs. The animated GIF is one that’s becoming popular, but technically GIFs don’t need to be animated—it’s just one of the interesting features of the format, which is flexible enough to accept many different extensions.

Kate: You write that Gen Z is “annoyed” by GIFs. Why is that?

Kaitlyn: Gen Z finds it especially so reaction GIFs are cringe-y – they claim that reaction GIFs are associated with Millennials, but I don’t really believe in generational warfare. I think the problem is that responsive GIFs are overused because they’ve become so accessible. If you want to convey a certain emotion in a tweet, text, or Slack message, the GIF-search feature or Giphy integration that’s now part of all these apps will pull up the same handful of super-popular GIFs. many times. (Slack ones are the worst because they read over and over again at the window until the conversation goes on long enough to push them up and down.) You just don’t see much creativity and it gets out of place. like very lazy.

Before all these search functions, even five years ago, people were quite invested in capturing interesting moments from different things and fitting them into funny or clever contexts. Now that we’ve lost that, I think using GIFs can be seen as gross and silly. (I’ve written about this before, specifically in reference to the “How are you guys?” GIF, which is almost physically repulsive to me.)

Kate: I recently wrote about the “Millennial pause,” which, like the decline of GIFs, marks the end of the Millennial era of social media defined by Facebook and Instagram. Do you see another harbinger of this?

Kaitlyn: The weirdest thing about Facebook to me is that Millennials are really the only generation that made it central to their teenage or college experiences. My youngest sister has never opened an account as far as I know. Although she is very active on Instagram and is better at “photo dump” than anyone my age. If there’s a really noticeable difference between the two generations for me, I’d say that Gen Z has a more reflexive and seemingly natural relationship with social media that’s actually less defined by concern about its role in their lives. It’s not that they don’t have the same motivations to live out or experience the dire consequences of having their entire social circle online, but rather it feels like a natural part of their upbringing. Because why not?

My sisters were very upset with me when I suggested they join BeReal [an app for sharing personal photos that brands itself as a more transparent alternative to Instagram]. I think that The idea hurt them – that everyone would really be so enraged by the facade of Instagram that they would need a separate app to help them get away from it.

Kate: What does the new era of social media look like? Is there a Gen Z equivalent to GIFs?

Kaitlyn: To summarize, I think Gen Z is more video-first! Especially on Twitter, I see them reacting to everything super short video clips which, when it comes down to it, are effectively GIFs with sound. I think the image quality tends to be better and they don’t have those embarrassing watermarks that appear when you make GIFs using a free GIF maker, which makes them a little less “annoying”. But otherwise it’s basically the same thing, just funnier. I think that’s why [the short-form video apps] People who spent a lot of time on Vine and then TikTok, social media, knew comedic timing very well.

Kate: Popular platforms like Twitter and Tumblr have started converting and compressing GIFs to MP4 files because they are smaller and GIF artists don’t like them for many reasons. Do you think it’s inevitable that the GIF will disappear completely?

Kaitlyn: So I thought it would be fun to write a GIF story – all this talk about whether or not GIFs are going to fall out of use because they’re embarrassing or unfashionable. But people didn’t think of “GIFs” as a file format, but as a general concept of a short, repeating animation. The latter is what is really at stake, because in fact does it is outdated in a physical, technical, material sense. I’ve talked to an artist in the story who says that because of some of the features of GIFs, they will continue to use them forever, so I don’t think they’ll die out completely. But I can imagine that the GIF will be kind of the digital artist’s tool of death in a few years, and for reasons that only hobbyists can understand. You know, like when Quentin Tarantino bought all of Kodak film.


News of the day
  1. The Federal Reserve plans to raise interest rates again next month amid concerns about continued inflation.
  2. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, 30 percent of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed over the past week. Power has been cut in at least three cities in Ukraine following Russia’s attack on infrastructure.
  3. Xi Jinping is expected to be confirmed as China’s president for an unprecedented third term at the Chinese Communist Party’s National Congress in Beijing this week.


Evening Reading
(Tyler Comrie/The Atlantic)

The rise of ‘luxury control’

By Chris Gilliard

Imagine, for a moment, imagining the near future of Amazon.

Every morning you are gently awakened by Amazon Halo Rise. From its perch on your nightstand, the round device spent the night monitoring your body movements, the light in your room, and the temperature and humidity of the space. At the optimal moment of your sleep cycle, calculated by a special algorithm, the light of the device gradually brightens to imitate the natural warm color of the sunrise. An Amazon Echo connected to a nearby location automatically starts playing your favorite music as part of your wake-up routine. You ask the device for the weather of the day; means you are expecting rain. Then Amazon notifies you that the next “Subscribe and Save” shipment of Elements Super Omega-3 softgels is ready for delivery. On your way to the bathroom, a notification pops up on your phone from Amazon’s Neighbors app, filled with video footage from the Amazon Ring cameras: Someone has tripped over trash cans, turning the community’s backyard into a complete mess. (Maybe it’s just raccoons.)

Read the full article.

More Atlantic

Culture break
Photos of former NXIVM members India Oxenberg and Sarah Edmondson
Former NXIVM members India Oxenberg (left) and Sara Edmondson Covenant (Starz/HBO)

Read it. Two new books about dance that show how movement helps us see the rhythms we all share.

Look. Season 2 CovenantAn HBO documentary series about the organization NXIVM.

Listening. The last episode of our podcast How to build a happy lifeabout why it’s so hard to find love on dating apps.

Play our daily crossword.


Giphy is in the news today as UK regulators ordered Meta to sell the GIF platform it bought in 2020. office, released in 2008 and 2009, in which the camera zooms in on a bored and disaffected Stanley (Leslie David Baker) with his arms crossed. It’s perfect, or Kaitlyn thinks Slack’s narrowing down of the pool of GIFs is just the most obvious — a GIF to text your coworker when your boss says something you don’t like. GIFs may be out of style, but some things, e.g office and the desire to express our boredom never seems to get old.

– Kate

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.

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