Illustration for article titled You Need to Standardize Your GIF File Names

Photo: Jamen Percy (Shutterstock)

At over 30 years old, GIFs are the digital equivalent of a middle-aged millennial: Late bloomers who are now overworked and misunderstood. Today, they’re standard internet currency in text messages and social media threads, and as they’re no longer the fancy new thing, we have gotten a bit lazy with them. I’m talking to you, senders of grainy, choppy, overused reactions auto-suggested by their app integrations.

I’ll be clear: If you search a word and use a top-10 reaction GIF, you’re not being funny. I’ll be even more direct: You’re not even mildly entertaining anyone with your Jennifer-Lawrence-spit-take reaction. And now I’ll just be mean: Throw your phone in the fucking river before you send another Dawson Leery crying, Jonah Hill screaming, or Chrissy Teigen cringing GIF.

Here is a quick rundown of what makes for a good GIF. The perfect GIF is a seamless loop. If you can hardly tell where the loop begins, you’ve found (or better yet, made) a beautiful GIF. In lieu of that, a great GIF is one that has an obvious loop but tells a story in its limited frame space. It can work even with a high-five, like this one. The worst GIFs are too short a loop, making them appear jerky and unpleasant, like this one. A bad GIF can almost give you motion sickness if it is on your screen too long.

Overused GIFs are the visual analog to meaningless filler words, or responding to a friend’s news with “interesting.” (“Interesting” is the most empty, infuriating response to anything you were ever told, but that’s a story for another day.) You’re better than that—or at least I hope you want to be—so here’s an easy way to create your own war chest of reaction GIFs that are personal to you and your sense of humor, and that haven’t be seen by all seven billion people on Earth.

You already know how to make a GIF, so I won’t focus on that; instead we need to talk about what to do when you already have those GIFs so you can use them easily. And that starts and ends with organization: Standardize your GIF file names to include source, character name, physical descriptor and emotional tone. When you find or make a great new GIF, take the extra moment to name it in a standardized way, every single time (and, obviously, save them to an appropriate folder on your device).

We’ve all tasted the frustration of searching for a GIF and having a hard time finding it—internet culture’s equivalent to having a word on the tip of your tongue that you just can’t remember. Organizing your file name from at least three different angles will help make sure you can always find it. Here’s what it looks like for me; this method works for my brain, but you can customize it however works best for you:

Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gendo Ikari – Fire Glasses – Brooding Scheming.gif

If you can’t recall the TV show, you can recall the character; if you can’t recall the character, you can recall how you personally described the emotional tone, and so on. By saving your GIFs (or any picture files, really) with a personalized, standardized naming convention, I guarantee you’ll find what you need when you need it. The file name will be long, but the effort is oh so worth it.

So organize your GIFs as you save them, so when you need them, they’ll be there for you. You don’t have to make your own GIFs every time—although you can, and to those who do, I salute you—but please, no more Emma Stone.