A mere nine months ago my Facebook feed was a jaded and pessimistic place. Nobody wanted to visit my home page, least of all me. And the real world didn’t feel much better. Outside the office I was making few social connections. I was living in a sad, political bubble. Then, I discovered the internet of pets, and everything changed. Or almost everything. My home page is still a place few people visit. But for me and my 87 followers on Instagram, the world is now undeniably a happier place.
The Political Bubble
Back in those days when I skulked in the darker corners of social media where the serious news hangs out and political partisans go to troll each other to the point of suicide, the internet of pets was no more to me than an overheard giggle from a nearby work cubicle. “Hey, did you see that great kitten video I sent you?” a friend would ask. I would smile and nod. “So cute!” But I was rolling my eyes inside. Kitten video, Bah humbug! Just another unwanted distraction from my search for the secret to bringing people together in a divided and hostile world.
My perspective changed entirely one day when I was out walking the dogs. After the 5th or 6th person stopped us on the street to pet the dogs and tell me about their own pets, I realized that pets unite people in a way that hobbies, work, and families don’t. The love of animals connects people in an apolitical and largely egalitarian way. Pets break down social barriers and build community. Within a month I had tiptoed into the internet of pets with KC Pet Collective.
The Internet of Pets
The internet of pets is serious business. There are thousands of pet blogs and social media accounts in the US. The largest accounts have a million or more followers. There’s even a new term for these animal media giants: Petfluencers. Marketing research indicates that 44% of Millennials view their pets as children. They engage with brands and other pet parents online as much as parents of human children do.
As a blogger trying to grow an engaged online community, I began to spend more time reading and responding to animal-related posts of all kinds. Those kitten videos my friends sent me were opened and shared with new friends. Engagement online led to participation in real-time as I began to get out in the community to attend and cover pet-friendly events.
The Pet Bubble
Gradually, I replaced my political bubble with a pet bubble. The more pet posts I read, the more pet posts came to my feeds. Today, I am a proud participant in the internet of pets. It’s a kinder net where polite discussion, shared enthusiasm, and positive energy is the norm. Something about pets keeps the trolls away and deflects our meaner human instincts.
I don’t miss the “serious” news. I don’t get tired of seeing animals of all sorts come across my screen throughout the day. Every pet is different, and the photography is often stunning and surprisingly professional. Each image of a beloved pet inspires joy. I keep up with the headlines on my own schedule, but I let the pet posts come freely to my feeds and inbox.
As I contribute in a small way to the internet of pets through KC Pet Collective, I hope to build a community of pet lovers and the local businesses who serve them. To my 88 (I got one more while I was writing this) Instagram followers, I say, “Thanks for being part of the community!” For the rest of you, I look forward to seeing your pet videos and photos online. And if you follow me on Instagram, @kcpetcollective, I won’t hate you.