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When words won't cut it, express yourself with reaction GIFs

When you really want to get your point across, nothing beats a hilarious little video clip. Here's how to find them and use them.

You've seen them in message forums, blog posts and countless other corners of the Internet: little looping video clips that typically last no more than a few seconds. Like this one (which you may not be able to see if you're using a mobile device):

If a picture is worth a thousand words, something like this is probably in the mid-five-digits. It's informally referred to as a "reaction GIF," and it's a fun, often funny, often very funny, way to express yourself online -- usually as a reaction (natch) to something else you've seen online.

That green fella up above, for example? You might use that in response to a blog post that made you particularly angry. Or this one if you find something particularly absurd:

Okay, but where do you find these little animations, and how do you deploy them as you travel the Interwebs?

The where is easy: Start at ReactionGIFs.com, which features a large, growing and, most important, categorized collection of snippets. Here you can search for particular people or feelings, or view categories based on a feeling or answer (such as "hell yes!"). There's also a Reddit thread devoted to reaction GIFs. (FYI, some of these images are decidedly NSFW.)

Once you've found a GIF you want to use, the next step is to copy its URL -- that is, the address where it's hosted online. In the case of the above Simpsons GIF, for example, which I found on Reddit, I pulled the address right out of my browser's address bar:

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

In the case of ReactionGIFs.com, it works much the same: Click the GIF you want, then copy the URL from the address bar. In most browsers you can also right-click a GIF and choose Copy Image URL -- a helpful option in case you're pulling the GIF from a location that doesn't hyperlink the source.

Once you've copied the address, all that remains is to paste it into the right place. If you're a blogger and want to make it part of a post, that usually means choosing the embed-image option, then inserting the URL (as opposed to uploading an image).

Likewise, if you subscribe to a message forum, you may be able to use a reaction GIF as your profile photo -- again just pasting the URL instead of uploading a photo. Many message-board systems allow for this option. Similarly, you can often embed an image (in the form of a URL) when you're posting to message board. But you don't just paste the URL into the text; again, you have to look for an embed-image tool.

What's that? You don't like reaction GIFs? All I can say to that is: