2017 is terrible, and the GIFs people have used this year, unsurprisingly, reflect the whirlwind of emotions we have been experiencing on a daily basis. A new study of GIF use by Tenor, the internet’s largest GIF platform and search engine, suggests that 2017 was a much more negative year overall compared to 2016, with the most popular GIF being one that expresses straight-up disbelief.
That would be the “White Guy Blinking” GIF, which loops a close-up of video editor Drew Scanlon blinking perplexedly — perfect for reacting to WTF news, like an AI bot receiving Saudi citizenship, or the record-shattering sale of a questionable Leonardo. It comes out as number one on Tenor’s list of top 10 GIFs ahead of “Baby Crying,” “Jonah Hill ‘Yay,'” and “Shaq Laughing.”
To explore how such GIF use can reflect large-scale emotional trends, Tenor looked at the billions of emotions and reactions people used as search terms on its database and labeled them as either negative and positive.
“The results were pretty clear: 2017 really sucked, and sucked a lot more than 2016,” according to the company’s report. “Negative emotions increased by 31%, and positive emotions decreased by 18%. We were also 39% more drunk (the only “neutral” emotion), which can really be interpreted in a number of ways… ¯\ _(ツ) _/¯” It notes that although user searches for “laughing” nearly doubled in the last year, GIFs of laughter are not always deployed in a strictly positive sense.
“The Shaq GIF could easily be used in a ‘laughing at the ridiculousness of everything’ manner,” according to the company. “Because of this, 2017 might have been emotionally worse than this data indicates.”
Let’s hope 2018 gives us more cause to share grinning doggos and dancing celebrities.