Back in the day, anyone who heard the word “viral” would immediately think of microscopic contagions that make people sick and spread disease. These days, it’s quite a different story.
Now when you hear about something going viral, you can pretty much bet that it’s in reference to a piece of online media that’s been shared a relatively large number of times in a relatively short period.
It’s safe to say that social media and the internet have taken over our lives, and it’s become a whole new reality for some (mom and dad included). We’re constantly getting bombarded by online media and most of it goes pretty much unnoticed. But amongst all that media, there are the golden few that get shared around and engaged with enough to reach that coveted viral status, something most media can only dream of.
There’s no specific characteristic that makes an online post more likely to go viral, but the vast majority of all viral posts are either humorous, shocking, or inspiring. We’ve all seen our share of epic fail videos, long range basketball shots, and that kid after his dental appointment, but a common denominator for what seems like half of my Facebook and Twitter feeds is videos/images with animals in them.
How animals have dominated social media:
It all started with a British photographer named Harry Pointer (not the teenage wizard), who started the act of photographing cats in unusual situations in the 1800s. He discovered that cats have an incredible ability to express “human-like” emotions.
The important thing to note was that Pointer developed a trend, and other artists like Harry Whittier Frees were quick to take advantage of this new-found formula for virality. Frees basically copied the style of Pointer, and had the same observation—cats really have a natural ability to convey emotional appeal.
Fast forward to today, we’ve got a range of animals leading the views counter on YouTube e.g. dog chasing deer (15 million), Golden Eagle almost snatching a baby (45 million), dramatic chipmunk (46 million), and montage of goats who sound like humans (35 million).
— Grumpy Cat (@RealGrumpyCat) November 11, 2016
Truly, cats and animals, overall, have penetrated the pop culture scene. One of them, Grumpy Cat (seen above) even has a feature film of his own. I don’t think it did too well but that’s quite an iconic status for a pet! Some animals even have personalized social media accounts of their own that have surpassed the number of followers most other celebrities have on Twitter.
Gabriel Mederos, the Manager for Public Relations and Corporate Affairs at Nestle Purina Pet Care Company, said that 1 in 10 pets has a social media profile. He also mentioned that social media is a great channel of communication for pets and pet lovers to share this type of information.
There’s absolutely no question that animals have dominated the internet since the advent of social media sharing. The creators of LOLCats even launched an official website that attracts well over a million unique viewers each month, so their misspelled shenanigans can continue indefinitely. Sure, they’re no longer solely dedicated to cats, but the cats started it all.
Why social media users love animal posts so much:
So, why are we obsessively fascinated by these animals? According to a study by Central Missouri State University, humans attribute the same set of personality traits to cats that psychologists would use to describe humans: extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, and openness. Cats are flexible when it comes to copying human actions, which is sometimes just too adorable to ignore.
Another study from Leeds University noticed that when people are feeling a bit blue or a little over on the negative side of emotions, they often turn to pets and other animals, who have become the outlet of positivity on the online sphere.
In general, we use social media to share what’s happening in our world, and for many of us, pets play a huge role in our everyday lives. Uploading photos or videos of our pets is a way of sharing the fun and excitement of having them.
Humans have become so accustomed to their pets that we treat them like humans (sometimes even better than humans). It’s hard not to glorify them when they provide us with unconditional love. And let’s face it, animals can be incredibly funny to watch, even when they’re not doing much.
And as long as the internet is alive, there will always be a corner for every single facet of our lives, and one of the most thriving aspects right now is the pet phenomenon.
Cat food for thought:
Due to the opportunity for virality and exposure that comes with animal posts, brands have been quick to use it to their advantage. The amount of ads we see on a daily basis are vast, but agencies have discovered that ads with animals in them result in better recall and engagement, hence better ad performance.
You’ve probably seen Android’s “Friends Furever” video with the tagline “Be together. Not the same,” which features different types of animals uniquely forming friendships. This video alone has been shared over 6.5 million times on social media and has been viewed over 26 million times.
There’s no doubt that Android knew it was going to go viral before they even released it. Why? Because we all have a soft spot for animals, especially when we can relate to the behaviours they exhibit.
So go ahead and keep watching those compilations of dogs who fail at being dogs, or those videos of baby animals standing up to those they should probably be afraid of. We all need something to make us smile from time to time, and animals have a solid record of being awesome at it.
We love our animals, and their virality says it all. Either that or our pets are spending more time online than we know…