Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Eric Acton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

T. Daniel Seely, Ph.D.


Given the ever-growing presence of computer-mediated communication (CMC), it is important to understand CMC and how it relates to communication in general. Despite considerable research on CMC, various features are still underrepresented, such as GIF communication. This study examines what GIF usage suggests about interlocutors’ social relationships. In particular, through a perception experiment among young adults, this study investigates how GIF usage affects perceptions of social closeness between interlocutors. I find that participants perceive interlocutors to be significantly closer when one responds to another with a GIF with embedded text instead of a text-only response, an effect that I link to increased expressiveness between people who are socially close. In addition, this effect is stronger for participants who self-report as frequent social media and GIF users than for those who do not. This could imply frequent CMC users perceive more social closeness because of their familiarity with online social cues.

Included in

Linguistics Commons