How the Nation is Social Distancing — As Told by GIFs

4 min readApr 8, 2020

As people are hunkering down across the world, communication is increasingly turning to digital means. With 10+ billion pieces of content shared on GIPHY every day — and every GIF search representing an emotion, reaction, etc. — GIPHY is a natural form of expression for these digital conversations. As such, our data has become a barometer for how people are feeling and choosing to express themselves.

We are already seeing a shift in what people are searching for and how that reflects people’s daily routines. For example, “happy hour” is very much still alive and well and Joe Exotic is now a household name, but read on below for more insights on GIPHY user behavior in March.

People are Increasingly Turning to GIFs for Self-Expression

To date, we’ve seen a 33% increase in GIPHY usage since last month (likely due to the increased need for digital communications). This gives GIPHY a unique look into how the nation is feeling during these unprecedented times. While we have seen searches for “Coronavirus” increase significantly over the past month, we have also seen positivity and encouragement take flight on GIPHY.

Daily Routines are Shifting; Less Division between Morning vs. Evening

WFH-related searches have increased by nearly 35x (compared to previous months) on GIPHY, but we wanted to dig deeper into how daily routines are changing. To do so, we examined some search terms related to people’s daily routines, such as: coffee, sleep, party, Netflix and drinks. Here’s what we found:

Primarily, searches that were previously specific to morning or evening spikes are now more evenly distributed throughout the day. The only exception being “coffee,” which increased both in the morning and during the later hours as well.

Otherwise, sleep searches dropped significantly both in the morning and evening (likely because of a decrease in early commutes) and searches for “party,” “drinks,” and “Netflix” — primarily evening activities — are more evenly distributed; all showing a little less separation between morning vs. evening in people’s daily routines.

Tiger King Reigns Over TV Searches; Happy Hours are Thriving

We also took to our search trends to see how people are entertaining themselves while practicing social distancing. As expected, TV and entertainment searches are seeing massive spikes, but so are interests in new hobbies and social media games to stay connected. Here’s a look (through GIFs, of course):

Entertainment is having a *big* moment…

Especially “Tiger King.”

People are spending more time on video games…

… as well as social media games.

Also, weekends are very much still celebrated…

… as are newfound hobbies.

Coronavirus is on People’s Minds, but the Nation is Finding Balance

At the beginning of March, timely events (Super Tuesday and International Woman’s Day, for example) still dominated conversation and only minimal Coronavirus searches were happening on GIPHY in the U.S. By the week of March 9, around the same time many quarantine orders started to take effect, Coronavirus-related terms were the top searches on GIPHY, surpassing any talk of politics, first day of spring, etc.

However, the tide is turning. At the end of March, as Coronavirus searches decreased, there was a steady increase in searches related to timely shows and activities, such as Tiger King, favorite GIF templates, Animal Crossing, and more.

Brands and Organizations are Doing their Part to Help

We are seeing many organizations and brands look to GIPHY to communicate support during this time. Google and WHO turned to GIPHY to host and promote their PSA GIF, the Ad Council created GIFs for their #AloneTogether campaign, and Russell Stover launched their campaign to send virtual hugs. As part of this campaign, Russell Stover created “virtual hug” GIFs on GIPHY to help people stay connected and encourage each other even when apart.

These are, of course, unprecedented times. While we hope these insights are helpful in showing the trends we see on GIPHY, we know it doesn’t tell everyone’s story. Wherever you may currently find yourself, we hope GIPHY can still be a place that inspires creativity, shares positivity, and provides the content that helps you tell your story. For more from GIPHY, follow us on @GIPHY on Twitter and Instagram.

Stay well,
Your friends at GIPHY




GIPHY is all the GIFs. We’re the first and largest GIF search engine where artists, brands, and users alike go to make everyday conversation more entertaining.