It has recently come to light that a resident of the nearby town of Spencerville is something of an online sensation. Robert E. Blackmon is well known in the social media community for his GIFs – short videos of only a few seconds repeating on a loop, usually to express a strong emotion. GIF databases are typically available above the keyboard layout in smartphones and other devices, allowing GIFs to be sent as a response to written messages. GIFs can also be used in the comment sections of social media websites such as Facebook.
Robert is both a Hollywood actor and lifestyle coach by trade. He is originally from Detroit, but moved to Spencerville as his husband is native to the area. His GIFs have been used and viewed approximately 10.5 billion times (and counting), and his GIF of himself discarding a trash bag labelled “2020” attracted enough views – 360 million – to be considered among the most watched GIFs of the year. The odds are that a significant portion of readers have “seen” Robert’s image online, though few likely realize he lives in our own backyard.
“I love living in Spencerville,” Robert told the Times. “I was born and raised in the U.S. and lived the majority of my life in Los Angeles. When I moved to Canada in 2009, there was an adjustment to small town life, but the people here were so welcoming. Spencerville is steeped in history and tradition. They have embraced me and made me feel at home.”
Asked whether he often gets recognized by others in the local area, Robert confirmed that he does, but certainly not just for the GIFs. “Over the years, I have established myself locally as a fashion designer, so many people have hired me for my services,” he said. “I also donate my time in various local community events. Since moving to Spencerville, I have remained active in some Hollywood events and projects, so my television presence is never far. I am also an occasional lifestyle contributor to CTV Morning Live Ottawa. So yes, I’m often recognized locally. It’s actually quite fun to receive an email or a phone call from someone congratulating me on a project that I’ve completed. I feel quite proud because I’m a local, and it feels nice to be able to promote our local community and shine a light on it.”
It turns out that there is money to be made from GIFs as well. “When I first started making GIFs, it was just a fun thing to do to be a part of the app. But as my popularity grew, companies started reaching out to me asking permission to license them for their brands. And so now I actively work with companies and brands. Some companies license material that has already been created, but others have me create specific GIFs for them. They have been used for everything from marketing promotions to popcorn and even television shows. So this format has definitely become very lucrative for me!”
Pay attention to your smartphone everyone. You may just see a local star!