A GIF is not the best gift 🎁

GIFs are very popular. They are often used in social media to display emotions, to surprise and to make people laugh. And I have to admit, they are funny sometimes. Nonetheless, emoji might be better to communicatie and also for our environment. 🌍

What are GIFs?

A gif is actually an image file format, just like jpg or png. One big difference with other image formats is that a gif supports animated images. It is called an animated GIF: just like a movie, but short and annoyingly repeated to infinity.

A gif is not used that much anymore for images as it can be replaced by a jpg for most purposes. However, it is very popular for the animated GIFs you can find via Giphy (just a warning: clicking this link will generate about 7 g of CO2) and share easily on social media. So that’s what a lot of people do. And that may not be such a good thing. 😔

Bad for the climate

GIFs are large in file size, often inaccessible and they render slowly. They may be fun to watch, but not everyone will be able to enjoy them due to some kind of disability. They slow down the site or the app you are using. Due to their large size, they require a relatively large amount of energy to be transferred and rendered, so they are also bad for our environment.

You might reconsider when thinking of sending a GIF to someone. But you don’t have to use plain text instead, there are viable alternatives, like emoji.

Emoji to the rescue 😎

Emoji are all over the place. They are used to display emotions that are otherwise hard to guess without being able to see each other during a conversation. They are much like emoticons :-), but emoji are actual images 🙂. They exist in various genres, including facial expressions, common objects, places and types of weather, and animals.

Emoji are supported by your device’s operating system. This means that the images are present on your device. This is different for a GIF that has to be transferred to your device when you view it. Besides their familiarity, this is a definite advantage of emoji for their energy-efficiency and loading time. Emoji are also accessible since they are described by screen readers for people with visual impairments. This also means that you shouldn’t overuse them.

Emoji are based on unicode data. The well-known smiley 🙂 equals to U+1F642. You can view the full list of approved emoji here.

Also, did you know that emoji need to be officially approved before they can be added to the collection? And that July 17 is World Emoji Day?

Some emoji are more equal than others

There may be some communication problems with emoji. Emoji look different on different types of operating systems, but even depending on the platform. For example, a gift or present might look very different. Of course, that is not a big problem, but if an emotion is interpreted differently due to the difference in the image displayed, that can be confusing. A symbol may also mean different things in different cultures. For example, the ‘hands-up’ symbol is a positive sign for most Americans, but in China, it is dismissive and means ‘stay away from me’. ✋ And sometimes, it is just not clear what an emoji means or they may be controversial due to a specific skin color.

And the winner is… 🥁

Although they are not perfect, emoji are a great addition to online communication. We seem to get more and more familiar with them. So, just think twice the next time you want to post a GIF: is it really worth it? Couldn’t you use a simple emoji? 🤜🤛

Note: I disabled emoji support on this site, so emoticons won’t turn into emoji automatically. Not because this site is so serious (it is though 😉), but because I didn’t think it was essential and it adds extra bloat when a page is loaded. Find out more about disabling emoji support on WordPress sites.
The great thing is that you can still paste an emoji into your content from Emojipedia, for example.

I would like to dedicate this post to Gregory M. who unfortunately passed away on December 20, 2019. He was only 29 years old.
He was a great colleague and a web designer friend. He supported the idea behind this site. I would like to thank him for that and for all the fun conversations we had.

This page was delivered in about 17 kb.