Last March 14, 2022, we lost someone who had contributed so much to internet culture. Steve Wilhite, the inventor of the GIF, passed away from the COVID-19 virus on this day. According to The Verge, he passed on surrounded by family.
Steve Wilhite first created the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) back when he worked in CompuServe in the 1980s. The GIF was originally intended to be a way to distribute “high-quality, high-resolution graphics” in color with the least data possible, especially since internet speeds back then were extremely slow.
Forty years later, the GIF has become a staple in the internet and meme culture. We utilize animated pictures to communicate quickly and efficiently while being humorous at the same time. Sometimes if we’re at a loss for words, a GIF can express our exact feelings and emotions. It’s incredible to know that 7 billion GIFs are sent and distributed every day, according to Giflytics. This just proves how important GIFs are to the internet as a whole.
We thank Steve Wilhite for his revolutionary invention, and we honor his passing by remembering twelve iconic GIFs that perfectly communicate what we’re feeling without the need for words.
Michael Jackson eating popcorn
This GIF comes from Micheal Jackson’s “Thriller” music video and shows MJ eating some popcorn in a cinema. It was one of the earliest reaction GIFs that became popular on the internet, and it represents us watching a huge debate going down in the comments of some random social media post.
The blinking guy GIF comes from a 2013 YouTube video, wherein a dude named Drew Scanlon performs a double-take after hearing the words “farming with my hoe” from a fellow YouTuber. In the GIF world, it is used to express confusion or disbelief.
Homer Backing Away
This GIF is obviously taken from a scene from The Simpsons, where Homer backs away into a hedge until he disappears completely. This GIF is used to express embarrassment.
Math Lady/ Confused Lady
This confused lady is actually Brazilian actress Renata Sorrah and is taken from a scene in a telenovela called Senhora do Destino. It’s another classic reaction GIF that is used to express confusion and is just hilarious considering the fact that this lady is trying her best to solve some type of complicated math problem.
Supa Hot Fire
This GIF of a character named Supa Hot Fire was way popular around the mid-2010s. This character parodied rap battles, and in his YouTube videos, the crowd would always be overly biased towards his character. This particular GIF is used to express when someone gets “owned” on the internet. You can almost hear the accompanying “OOHH” from the crowd when seeing this GIF.
Crying Interview Kid
This little kid cried after a reporter asked her if he was excited for his first day of preschool. Don’t worry kid, I was not excited for school either; I understand your pain. This GIF is obviously used to express a sudden burst of sadness.
Confused Nick Young
This GIF comes from a YouTuber and her series called Thru The Lens, which has an episode that features NBA player Nick Young’s daily life. He makes that iconic “what?” face after his mom calls her “a clown” back when he was younger. This is another GIF that is used to express confusion and is still very much a popular GIF used to this day.
Leonardo DiCaprio Toast
This GIF comes from a scene in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby, which shows Leonardo DiCaprio toasting a martini glass. This reaction GIF is used for praise or as a sort of “congratulations.”
Jonah Hill screaming
This GIF is from the 2010 comedy Get Him to the Greek, and it shows Jonah Hill in a somewhat screaming pose. This GIF is used to show happiness or excitement towards a certain event or social media post.
Oh My God/ Magikarp Guy
This GIF shows an audience member from the 2016 season of Australia’s Got Talent. He’s nicknamed Magikarp Guy, which is fitting since he does have a facial expression like the aforementioned Pokemon. The GIF is used as a sort of “Oh My God” reaction or an overexaggerated expression of praise and applause.
Awkward Kid/Terio at Popeyes
This was a 2013 vine turned GIF called Terio at Popeyes. It shows a kid that looks like vine celebrity Terio next to a garbage bin as he gives the cameraman the side-eye. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, and the internet just loves that humor. The GIF can be used to express judgment of another’s comment, or simply just to give an awkward vibe.
Think about it
The origin of this GIF is actually from a BBC YouTube channel, which had a mini-documentary series called the Hood Documentary. Actor Kayode Ewumi plays a character named Reece Simpson and is seen pointing at his head which implies decision making. We know that the meme and GIF from this mock poor decisions and failures in critical thinking. A simple example of this would be this quote: “Can’t get fired, if you don’t have a job,” which is accompanied by the image or the GIF itself.
R.I.P., Steve Wilhite. Thank you for giving us the means to express ourselves with GIFs when words fail to convey how we feel.
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