The (Ab)use of Animals in Social Media

We live in the virtual world more intensely than we should live in the real one. Reality is now based on the virtuality of a primitive man set loose in a world that he believes to be authentic by the illusory freedom it gives him. 

The lack of balance and rules for social media usage has a significant impact on our health, as some studies show (references).

Stress relief is one reason undergraduate students used Facebook. Having many Facebook friends was associated with more perceived social support, which then was associated with reduced stress, and, in turn, reduced physical illness and greater psychological well-being. 

However, Facebook users aged 18–70 years old revealed that the more social network memberships they had and the more time spent on them, the higher their stress levels and the lower their quality of life. In addition, users who shared important, bad health news on Facebook had higher stress and lower quality of life than users who did not.

Several studies also imply the compulsive use of social media in general, with suicide, sleep quality, anxiety, anorexia, addiction, mental health problems, impulsivity, lack of well-being, reduced academic performance, and physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches, and eye problems).

A survey by travel firm, First Choice, found that 34% (out of 1,000 surveyed) of 6- to 17-year-olds would like to be YouTubers when they grow up. And almost a fifth (18%) said they would like to be a blogger or vlogger. Although it is a small sample out of millions, we have a slight idea and perhaps a starting point for researching how technology is driving us. 

All of this virtual living is having a big influence in our real lives. This article shows possible “innovations” which seems to be the future of the “new normal.”

The Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) rehomed almost 100 ducklings after a TikTok trend which led to them being sold to people for around 5€. This situation was reported after the videos started trending. Some of these ducklings were injured and died.

The links below show several cases and reports of animal abuse on social media:

Controversial influencer arrested for posting animal abuse videos on TikTok.

TikTok Has a Lot of Animal Cruelty and It Needs to Stop!

The Shocking Rise of Animal Abuse On Social Media.

They’re accused of abusing their pets in viral videos. But laws don’t always consider it cruelty.

PET HATE How TikTok has become a hotbed of animal cruelty as thugs PUNCH helpless dogs and force tight bands around pets’ ears. 

TikTok Challenges Encourage Users To Slap Their Pets And Tie Their Ears Together For ‘Likes’.

As we saw above, the problem is not only on the currently popular TikTok but also on other social media. I express my concern about how trends and the need for attention and likes can easily manipulate our species to (ab)use others. Some papers give us interesting views on human and animal relationships beginning in childhood and the effects of our early impressions. (E.g. Tunnicliffe & Reiss, 1999; Pagani, 2011). Social media mixes cultures, individual mentalities and gives exposition opportunities to everyone. So, several questions should be studied by professionals in this area from different perspectives. From parenting,  to the goal of these actions, and to all the social and cultural influences around them, including how society presents animals to us. How can social media become a tool for educating  about animal welfare instead of fueling a ghetto of trendy games that lead to the abuse  of animals? 

The effects of peer pressure and humans’ sense of impunity will continue to have consequences in our future relationships with other species. It is a bit scary how we don’t naturally control ourselves, and only with rules, regulations, laws, control, and punishments do we stop harmful behaviours.

As a final note, for some reason, I remembered the movies Untraceable and Don’t F**k with Cats. Perhaps, the former will not be fiction in the future and the latter wasn’t actually a single episode…

Edited by Dana Lee

References

Baumeister, R. (2005). The cultural animal. London: Oxford University Press.

Dirnhuber, J. (2017). VLOG’S A JOB Children turn backs on traditional careers in favour of internet fame, study finds. The Sun. Retrieved Jul, 12, 2021 from https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3617062/children-turn-backs-on-traditional-careers-in-favour-of-internet-fame-study-finds.

Pagani, C. (2011). Children and Adolescents Who Are Kind to Animals. In: Blazina C., Boyraz G., Shen-Miller D. (eds) The Psychology of the Human-Animal Bond. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-9761-6_17.

Scurio, F. (2016). Human Stupidity, The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence. Frank J Scurio.

Sheldon, P., Rauschnabel, P. & Honeycutt, J. (2018). The Dark Side of Social Media. Psychological, Managerial, and Societal Perspectives. Academic Press.

The Journal. (2021). 100 ducklings rehomed by charity after short-lived social media trend. Retrieved, Jul, 12, 2021 from https://www.thejournal.ie/duckings-rehomed-sold-for-5-young-people-5447751-May2021.

Tunnicliffe, S. & Reiss, M. (1999). Building a model of the environment: how do children see animals?, Journal of Biological Education, 33:3, 142-148, DOI: 10.1080/00219266.1999.9655654.

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