When I was in college, I had to go to a presentation with my sorority. To be honest, I don’t remember what the lecture was about. Attending the speech was a requirement so most of us were there because we had to be there. The speaker was introduced and she walked onto the stage. She received a slightly unenthusiastic applause from the audience of college kids. She spoke for about 30 seconds when everyone started cheering and oohing and aahing. Everyone tried to get a closer look at the stage to see a very small dog walking across it. The dog was ADORABLE.
The speaker scooped up her dog and said, “Look at that! Wouldn’t it be great if humans greeted each other and reacted to each other the way we react when we see a cute dog? Wouldn’t doing that make other people feel good?” That concept has stayed with me ever since that night. It’s very true. We react to dogs differently from how we react to other humans.
A few weeks ago, I was using my dog’s Instagram account when I started thinking about what the speaker said. I have a “human” Instagram account and Raegan has a separate one. Raegan’s account only follows other dog accounts and her followers mostly consist of dogs. It’s not too often that a “human” account follows her and, when one does, I get suspicious. Anyway, I was posting a photo to her account when I started thinking about the differences between her account and mine.
- Consistent photography: The photography in Raegan’s account is mostly of her, other dogs in our family, or of her canine friends. When people follow her, they know what to expect. My account features many different kinds of photos. I have pet photos, flower photos, city photos, hockey photos, etc. What I post in “my” account can vary from day to day.
- Consistent hashtags: Since Raegan’s photos are all of the same subject, I can always use the same hashtags, drawing a consistent audience. The same isn’t true for my account so my hashtags vary, attracting a random audience.
- New friendships: Raegan has actually made friends. Most of her buddies post for themselves and speak in the first person (Yes, I know that dogs don’t actually take photos and type but let’s just pretend that they do for the purpose of this blog post.) so it is truly doggy-centric. Raegan gets a lot of “likes” and comments. The dogs share stories and know each other’s personalities. They ask each other questions to follow-up on past photos. They make fun of their parents, talk about their day, share about adventures, and ask for advice. Most important of all, they all have hearts of gold. The interaction on my account is very different. I haven’t met new people. I haven’t become FB friends, connected further, and planned to meet up with people from my Instagram account.
- Emojis: It’s somewhat rare for a comment not to end with hearts or winks or some kind of other adorable emoji in Raegan’s account. People do not speak to me in hearts and flowers on my account. Raegan’s account is overflowing with them, though. They might sound silly but, c’mon, can you really look at an emoji of a monkey covering his eyes and not smile??
- Positive reinforcement: If Raegan posts a photo after a trip to the groomer, her followers ooh and aah and…make her feel good. If I posted a photo after a trip to the salon, I might get accused of being narcissistic for posting a selfie of my new haircut.
- Sense of community: The dogs on Instagram form communities. Yes, I know it’s actually the humans that are forming the communities but something makes it easier or different by using a pet account. The sense of community is SO strong that we know of each other’s illnesses and check up on each other regularly. We know about vet appointments and ask how they went. When a pet’s Mom or Dad is ill, the pet account “managers” reach out to offer help. Again, I haven’t seen this on my own Instagram account.
- All-inclusive: Raegan’s friends are always expanding their network to MORE friends. It’s very inclusive and introductions to new dogs are being made all the time. The pups promote each other’s accounts and are really sweet about helping each other make new pals. That has never, not even once, happened on my account.
- Consistent engagement: I actually feel bad if I miss news on Raegan’s account. If one of her friends puts up something important, I feel terrible if we miss it. I don’t think “human” accounts are using Instagram in the same way as dog accounts are yet. I’m pretty sure that I could leave my own Instagram account for a few weeks and not miss much. I don’t leave my account, though, because I’d miss photos from the New York Rangers too much. When a dog “goes missing” from Instagram for a few days or longer, when he returns, he is welcomed back by accounts that are happy to see more photos. Why don’t human accounts act like this towards each other?
The canine Instagram community sticks together like glue. We celebrate dogs’ birthdays together. We help each other through tough times. We support each other when illness or injury strikes. I want to write about a very recent example of this.
Raegan has a dear Instagram friend named Koa. A few weeks ago, Koa was injured. He broke his left femur by its growth plate and the chances of it healing were slim to none. As such, Koa had his left hind leg amputated. Accounts all around the world rallied around Koa. A hashtag was started called #runforkoa because Koa wants all of his dog friends to enjoy their runs for him until he’s up and running again. Since Koa asked for the exercise from others, Raegan has been doing a #runforkoa every day.
A fundraiser was also started for Koa as his veterinary bills are extremely costly. As of right now, $1,968.00 of a goal of $3,000 have been raised. There are still 12 days left on the campaign and I expect that all funds will be raised to help with Koa’s care. I encourage you all to visit the Care for Koa page (http://youcaring.com/careforkoa) and make any donation that you can. Every little bit helps!
As far as Instagram activity goes, most of us check in at least daily to see how Koa is doing and I am VERY happy to say that a video was posted on Instagram today that showed Koa running on the sofa to get a treat from his Dad. It’s unbelievable that he had his leg removed just a few days ago and this little guy is so resilient and perky! Gosh, we have so much to learn from dogs!
As I finish this post, I’d like to thank all of Raegan’s friends who gave consent for their image and username to be used in this article. You guys are wonderful and we’re so lucky to have connected with you all! I’d also like to suggest, one more time, that you look at this cute little face and check out Koa’s campaign.
This post wouldn’t be possible without my darling Raegan, my Rae of Sunshine, so I’m signing this one…
-LH & RH