Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On Facebook and Animal Advocacy

I'm a huge believer in the power and connection of social media and its use in animal welfare to save lives. However, lately there's a relatively new kind of online animal advocate showing up in my Facebook stream: the Misery Merchant.

These folks keep up a relentless, endless, gratuitous, constant stream of graphic photos and depictions of violence against animals and pleas for animals that will be killed ANY MINUTE NOW, and it's just about the entire content of their feed.

I'm really not sure that this constant stream of graphic depictions of animal cruelty and PTS reports is effective or helpful. Publicity about dogs in need can indeed be an effective tool to help them, but this endless torrent of violence and death may just be causing people to turn away. Constantly reposting the most graphic content possible is not, in the end, doing something about the problem; when it's overdone it's just more poison, animal snuff porn, and it becomes a factor in desensitizing people to the cruelty you're trying to alert them to.

As someone who works in animal welfare, I need to focus on the good that can be done and the ways in which I can help. I'm not saying to deny that there's cruelty and death in the world - there is, and believe me, I deal with a ton of it professionally, but to constantly focus on that would send me into paralyzing depression. For my own sanity and in order to be able to keep working to make positive change, I need to acknowledge that there are bad things happening and much work to be done - and then set about doing it, not just reposting it on Facebook.

I'm clearing out the Misery Merchants from my feed. If that's all you have to offer as an advocate for animals, that is not enough for me, and viewing so much of it undermines my ability to make the difference I am capable of.


Blogger YesBiscuit! said...

I'm right there with ya kid. I don't want to see continual images of starved/burned/injured dogs or look at sweet faces that are in danger of being killed in a shelter unless I adopt them. I don't have my head in the sand about these issues but geez, I really LIKE dogs, ya know?

7:51 AM  
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10:59 AM  
Blogger Pai said...

After 30 years of ads where all you see is miserable, suffering animals, the percentage of pet owners in the U.S. that adopt is still around 20%

In other words, constantly depressing people makes them feel bad for the animals, but it doesn't inspire ACTION. People send money to shelters, which is nice and all, but they are so traumatised they don't want to actually get their animals from such a place filled with guilt and death. The focus really needs to be shifted to being more positive and constructive to draw people in and make them feel they can make a difference, instead of simply making people cry and want to turn away.

7:27 PM  

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