Article by AAP /
February 28, 2014 /
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Ever wasted time looking at funny photos or videos of animals online?
Admit it, you have.
We’ve all been on time-wasting animal websites, whether it’s at your desk at work or while waiting for a train.
Some are better than others, but even bad sites are appreciated for their entertainment value.
More often than not, funny-looking animals are involved, while the best sites are light-hearted and don’t take their subjects too seriously.
And there’s money to be made from them – some cats even have agents to arrange special appearances. Hopefully they don’t get into catfights backstage.
At the inaugural Internet Cat Video Film Festival in Minneapolis in 2012, more than 10,000 people attended, which was twice the number of people the organisers were expecting.
What is it with the internet’s love affair with cats and other furry pets?
Is it because they are the perfect canvas for human projection?
Pop culture and social media researcher Lauren Rosewarne says the craze can be explained by a range of factors that, combined, create the perfect social media recipe.
“There’s the cuteness factor and the fact that offline people love animals, so it’s no surprise we see animals taking a big role in videos,” she told AAP.
The internet has always been about sharing, whether it be emailed jokes, powerpoints with images of kittens, to funny animal memes and videos, says Dr Rosewarne.
But it’s the unusual clips that go viral.
“There also needs to be something more than cuteness. It gets us in, but what gets us to pass it on is something else,” she said.
“We’re attracted to animals we find sweet and adorable, and when they do stupid, embarrassing or funny things, it adds even more value.”
The researcher says she doesn’t think people go online to purposely look for animal photos.
“We’re not searching material out so much as we are continuing the ball rolling with a clip that has already been identified as funny.”
That’s where websites like BuzzFeed come in, whose teams of producers comb the internet for entertaining pieces.
There’s no science to it, says Dr Rosewarne, or a clear explanation as to why items such as screaming goat music videos became so popular in 2012.
“It’s hard to imagine how that came about. You can’t sit down and design the next big thing on the internet,” she said.
“But these things are often short-lived. We’re not hearing goats now.”
Dr Rosewarne says the popularity of animal websites has even resulted in its language appearing in everyday usage.
For example, the phrase “I can has cheeseburger” has entered the lingo, after the name of a popular animal blog.
“It’s funny and disturbing at the same time.”