Social media goes to the dogs (and cats) as pets post online

Pets are taking to the internet with fun photos, interesting posts and regular updates on platforms such as Instagram and BlogPaws

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 February, 2016, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 February, 2016, 12:00pm

In this age of technology, almost anything is possible. Drones may soon be delivering Amazon packages, cars are driving themselves and dogs are posting on Instagram.

For the record, it’s not really the pets that are running these accounts; it’s their owners.

Pet owners are creating Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts for their furry friends in a trend that has been given a boost by celebrities including Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, CeeLo Green, Ed Sheeran, 50 Cent and Lady Gaga.

These accounts are usually presented as though it’s the animal behind the keyboard. The pets talk about chasing the mailman, post selfies and make snide comments about owners taking them to the vet or giving them a bath.

Andrea Wheeler, 20, a student at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas in the US, created Facebook and Twitter accounts for her dog, Stymie, a beagle-basset-corgi mix, when she was in high school.

Originally, Wheeler tried out a Facebook app called Dogbook that allowed owners to link their dog’s page to the owners’. However, it lacked the full functionality of a regular Facebook page, and Wheeler says it wasn’t as fun.

“So, I went all in and made Stymie his own Facebook account,” Wheeler says. “Then when Twitter started becoming popular, I made myself an account, and after a while, I figured Stymie needed one as well.”

Wheeler says she realises the ridiculousness of the whole concept but has too much fun with it to care.

“I just think it’s hilarious,” she says. “He’s a dog. He doesn’t have thumbs or even a need for a social media account, but he has two.”

Wheeler says she likes to post comments about what Stymie did that day or some funny comment a dog could make about pop culture. She said one of her favourite things to do is start conversations on the Facebook walls of Stymie’s friends or even with herself. Stymie has about 50 friends on Facebook and 27 Twitter followers.

Brittany English, 25, created an Instagram account for her cat, Meatball, about a year ago.

English had been using the hashtag #meatballtheamazing when posting pictures of him and decided to get him an account.

“Meatball is quite the character,” says English. “I feel like more people can enjoy the things he does via social media.”

English posts pictures of Meatball sunbathing, scratching his belly or lying around and adds witty captions in his voice. Since joining the web, Meatball has attracted 53 followers. English says she tries to post on his account at least once a week.

English says social media accounts allow owners to share their pets’ individuality with the world.

“I think we’re in an age where animals are becoming more like family, and we’re becoming increasingly more aware of their unique personalities,” English says.

BlogPaws, an online company that promotes and encourages pet enthusiasts to blog, post or write about their pets on social media platforms, agrees with Davis that pet social media accounts are more than simple fun.

Carol Bryant, marketing and PR manager at BlogPaws, says that pet accounts are a way for people to make friends, build networks and find like-minded people.

“Pets are members of the family,” Bryant says. “Since all members of the family take to social media, it makes sense to have the pets there, too.”

Bryant says aside from finding fellow pet enthusiasts, the practice is driven by the overarching concept of humanising pets.

“Pet pampering is becoming the norm,” Bryant says. “The American Products Association report says more than US$60 billion was spent on pets in 2015, having our pets on social media is a natural progression.”