How online social media can harm the human-cat relationship going forward

There is yet another report in online news media today about how teenagers can spend nine hours a day engrossed in online social media which can fuel depression and self-consciousness.

Teenage girl on social media
Teenage girl on social media. Photo: in public domain on Pinterest.
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Both depression and the very fact that teenagers spend such a long time on smartphones using social media websites is likely to negatively impact the relationship between these people and the family cat going forward.

Back in the old days, before there was online social media, teenagers spent a lot more time doing practical things both inside and outside the home. Within those nine hours now allocated to social media, there would have been plenty of opportunity to interact with the family cat. This would be a chance to get to know and understand another species of animal which in turn could lead to better domestic cat husbandry in the future when the teenager grows up.

I have a slight concern that many of these teenagers will grow up to be too distant from nature and from companion animals to be able to be excellent cat guardians. And if many become depressed as well, as is reported, then that too reduces motivation to interact with others including domestic cats.

This is ironic because it is known that interacting with animals is good for mental health. There are many instances of troubled children being treated in facilities where they are able to interact with animals in the open air, in nature. It is a healing process.

It is also claimed that using online social media excessively can reduce teenagers’ ability to communicate. This is related to being able to read body language and facial expressions. These abilities can be stunted by overuse of online social media. You know, this is important, both in relation to human-human and human-cat relationships. A lot of cat guardianship relates to reading body language, understanding vocalisations and routines.

I wonder too whether some teenagers are subsituting interacting with domestic cats in the ‘real world’ for online social media interactions e.g. videos and pictures.

This is not to say that social media does not have any positives in the lives of teenagers. I’m sure that there are many such as making new friends and social media can be very educational. Also, websites like Facebook are in general very beneficial to cat rescue. Perhaps the general belief is that there should be a happy balance between using social media websites and activities in the real world, on the ground, which includes interacting with companion animals to the benefit of both. Among many teenagers this balance is yet to be found.

Note: University of Montreal researchers found that for every additional hour spent on social media or watching TV, teenagers’ depression symptoms worsened. – Daily Mail online.

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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

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