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GIFs Have Been Cancelled, Effective Immediately

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | April 1, 2016 |


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I love a GIF deployed with tactical acumen. A well-considered GIF can be a perfect statement, much like a perfectly placed emoticon, or just the precise sort of funny noise at the right time in the midst of conversation. But like all these things, GIFs are not self-sustaining. They are neither necessary nor sufficient to make a conversation. They are not a language unto themselves. They are seasoning, not steak.

And goddamned if you bastards didn’t just dump a bucket of salt all over the fucking sizzle.

In the distant days of 2012, comments were simple. Threading was a distant dream, “like” buttons a fantasy, there was no support for basic HTML formatting, or images of any kind, let alone animated ones. There weren’t even user accounts, just whatever name you felt like typing into the box above your comment. Those halcyon days, those simple times. When a comment meant words and words alone. When men were men and octopi swam scared.

We dreamed a dream once, a dream of eloquent eloquence. We wielded words like swords and paragraphs were our legions. Twenty comments meant an article would have more words written by the readers than the author. A hundred meant you should curl up on a couch in order to read a dissertation with a hundred authors, a veritable hydra of opinion.

And GIFs were a nice addition, once upon a time. They were an additional tool for the commenter of discerning taste. But power unearned becomes power abused. The endless GIFs became so much that if I have more than one Pajiba article open, my laptop starts cycling the fan up higher and higher until the thing overheats and I have to ctrl-alt-delete and kill the damned web browser. I can barely open Pajiba articles on my phone. When I figured out how to get my phone to block Disqus entirely, do you know what happened? The pages load in a second flat, advertisements and all, without the slightest hiccup. My monthly bandwidth usage dropped 90%.

Our comment threads have collapsed under the weight of a million pixels. For every hundred comments, eighty-seven of them are a single thread of GIF replies to each other. We get it. Cats are cute. Archer has a quote. Gillian Anderson rolls her eyes with more variety than the Eskimo snow lexicon. Hannibal is deliciously ironic. And Cap Ass. My god, Chris Evans’ proctologist hasn’t seen that ass as much as our comment threads.

You are sinners in the hands of angry overlords. And so GIFs are off in the comments. Off.

To save the village, we had to destroy it. The withered garden of conversation will starve and thin, until only the strong remain, until those who still can put words together rise stronger than ever and take back the comments. That is your challenge this day. Not to argue about the decision, not to complain. For we are merciless and cold and our resolve grows fat on your shrill misery. This garden of eloquence will bloom again, stronger and brighter than ever, flourishing in the dark mulch of rotting GIFs.

Oh, but we wouldn’t want you to go cold turkey. No, no, that would not do at all. Not when we can be cruel instead, tittering masters of our own wee domain. You have sown your GIFs upon the wind, and now you shall reap the whirlwind.

The only GIFs you get today are the first GIFs, the GIFs of the old ones when modems still shrieked and Netscape was our battlefield.

Use your words.

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