GIFs are the hot new thing. News organization BuzzFeed.com, which has staked its future on dozens of GIF and listicle posts a day, now has a staggering 85 million unique visitors a month. Attention-starved politicians want in on the action. So last week, Republicans published out a GIF-filled attack article against Democratic opposition to an oil pipeline.
It was an instant success; the post snagged headlines from a dozen tech and mainstream outlets. The Internet went bananas:
Here’s a sample of what the Energy and Commerce Committee put out (full post here):
“On September 19, 2008, five years ago, when TransCanada first submitted its application to the U.S. State Department to build the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion private infrastructure project that would create thousands of jobs and advance America’s energy security:”
“In April 2010, when the State Department issued its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which said the pipeline “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts during both construction and operation”
“Today, after five years, when the president has still not approved Keystone XL, keeping America waiting for thousands of jobs and greater energy security:”
When I first saw mentions of the article fill up my Twitter feed, I couldn’t understand why everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid:
I was all like, “No, I’m not going to click on this transparent click-bait piece of propaganda. Democracy deserves better.”
Then, at some point in the day, I was burnt out from work.
In a moment of weakness, I decided to see what all the fuss what about. I clicked and was instantly all like:
It was addicting. Ordinarily I fill my downtime with a mix of New Girl episodes and cat videos. Instead, I was learning.
Ten minutes later, I awoke from my daze with the full (if biased) history of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Despite my knee-jerk belief that GIF posts were devolving news into an adolescent version of itself, I’m now convinced that these playful little guys deserve a seat at the big boys’ table.
Let’s face it, we’re all on information overload, and we can’t read every piece of serious news out there.
It’s okay to laugh and learn at the same time, especially when we would otherwise just choose to laugh.
Ben Smith of BuzzFeed crafted an eloquent defense of this new type of journalism, arguing “Once you stop laughing and start thinking, the extreme virulence of the social web just might revolutionize the way you think about the world too.”
In the end, I don’t care how people share important nuggets of information, just so long as they do, especially if it reaches a demographic that never would have read it in the first place. So, kudos Republicans. May we all enjoy many more GIFS.
[Image Credit: Reactiongifs.com, Giphy.com]