Visuals like emojis and GIFs can make up for the useful cues that are often missing from digital chit-chatting: the raise of an eyebrow, the shrug of the shoulders, the rolling of an eye. But a new survey reveals that many people believe those visuals aren’t just helpful for adding clarity in text and mobile messages. They actually feel that they can better express themselves through these digital tools than through old-fashioned English.
In a survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by GIF platform Tenor, 36% of millennials ages 18 to 34 who use “visual expressions” such as emojis, GIFs and stickers say that those images better communicate their thoughts and feelings than words do. That’s more than twice the amount of people over the age of 65 who say the same. Roughly a quarter of people in the age groups between those two demographics feel that images can paint a clearer picture than words.
When asked solely about conveying emotion through animated images, the preference was even greater: Nearly two-thirds of millennials said GIFs did the job better than words, compared to about 40% of those in their golden years. “People fundamentally crave the ability to express the full range of human emotions,” said Tenor CEO David McIntosh. And unlike emojis — a static and limited set of images — GIFs can intersect with moments of pop culture that convey a far broader range of sentiments (and inside jokes).