Monday, April 5, 2010
Meow, Meow, Myspace! Social Media and Pets
Social Media has changed how we interact with our pets and others
As I write this blog, my "child" is sitting on my shoulder, serving as both muse and distraction. This "child" is not, in fact, human; it is my one year old cat who plays quite a large role in my life. When he is not removing keys from the laptop or snoring on the couch, Soscal, my cat, enjoys staring into the screen because it is bright and it moves. These two traits are major prerequisites for holding a feline's attention. However, some pet owners have taken this interest to a novel level with the creation of social media profiles for pets of all kinds.
A Place to Call Their Own
Time recently reported that pet owners have banded together to create a version of Facebook entitled Doggyspace andMycatspace . These websites feature pet profiles that allow the owner to post pictures, create status updates, and befriend similar breeds. Instead of focusing on the human, these sites are supposed to be from the pet's perspective. Doggyspace claims that it "is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who love dogs. People use Doggyspace to keep up with friends, upload funny dog videos, and to give their dogs their own cyber place." The site, along with Mycatspace, features blogs, headline pet news, and forums to discuss the joys and trials of pet parenting. Doggyspace also allows users to search by breed in order to find other Great Dane devotees or German Shepherd groupies.
Making it Accessible
The Iphone and Ipod Touch now feature a Doggyspace app. Users can easily access information about their pet's "friends" while on the go. Videos and groups encourage member participation while the unique pet focused forums could save hours of pet training or veterinary care if users band together to compile knowledge about a specific breed. Mycatspace is not quite as informative; though blogs, forums, and pictures do exist on the site, the main purpose seems to be entertainment value. There are several games that members can play as well as cutesy pictures for desktop backgrounds and screen savers. Only members can access the main parts of the site which does not lend itself to visitor stops.
Making Anonymity Easier
Blossom states in his book Content Nation that one of social media's biggest goals is to entertain. While this goal is most certainly the end result of the pet sites, they can also serve a very practical purpose. Users of social media who are not comfortable with sharing their name, city, or workplace can still find a way to express themselves online through pet profiles. By personifying your pet, you are allowing other users glimpses into your daily life and your personality. It gives pet owners the interaction that they may need with people of similar interests, but also allows the user to take the emphasis away from their own body or careers. Time also claims that "pets write messages to one another about shared interests and offer advice on health problems, training or local dog-friendly parks. Some have even enlisted their caretakers to arrange offline play dates." The user can extol Fido or Sassy's latest accomplishment for an audience of interested peers. What better way to use social media then for enjoyment?
A Few Problems
With more than 700,000 users of Doggyspace, social media for cats and dogs has really taken off. However, what about gerbils, snakes, bunnies and assorted other pets that do not fit into the traditional American home? Some bunnies have sneaked on to Doggyspace with the explanation that a Bunnyspace does not yet exist. So, unless your the owner of a dog and cat, you may have a hard time finding the social media site for you. Also, the dogs on Doggyspace tend to rack up friends even faster than their human counterparts. For this reason, it is imperative to keep personal information from infiltrating the site as it distributed to people you do not know except through the website. Caution would have to play a role in using the sites.
Soscal the cat
Overall, pet social media seems to be taking off at an advantageous time. People and their pets have gotten closer than ever and it no longer seems odd to create a profile for your furry friend. In fact, it may just allow me to figure out how to stop my cat from scratching my couch or how to appropriately keep him tick free. And all of this may mean a happier kitty, which means a less mutilated keyboard. I give it a two paws way up.