Do you know anyone who doesn’t like cute animal pictures? Didn’t think so.
We’re all programmed to react positively to these images. It’s just science.
And this is why cute animal pictures are also an excellent tool for keeping in touch with people – even serious ones.
Allow me to demonstrate:
A few years ago, I got on Twitter and found myself connecting with many interesting people, with whom my path would have never crossed in real life: from scientists to journalists, from writers to active military, from academics to marketing professionals.
Some connections went nowhere, some became real-life friendships.
And some were in that gray zone of loose acquaintanceships. If we ever found ourselves in the same city at the same time, we’d grab a beer and consolidate our friendship. But if we never got the chance to grab that beer, we’d still have years of Twitter interactions by which we’ve maintained contact.
For example, one cluster of Twitterati consisted of an Air Force officer, a professor of rural development, a graduate student of security studies, and yours truly. Now, we are all generally serious people with serious careers, and our twitter-conversations started on the basis of shared serious interests.
But we maintained our little pod over time because we all appreciate a good picture of a silly donkey and videos of even sillier pygmy goats. We even developed hashtags for tweeting them: #TeamGoat and #TeamDonkey.
There were moments when our group engaged in intense conversation, but there were also long stretches of time when our interactions were nothing more than the occasional pic of a braying donkey.
Social media has made it possible to more easily maintain loose connection with people one genuinely likes and values but with whom one doesn’t have a close relationship. But social media isn’t going to maintain our relationships. We need to invest mindful effort to energize them.
And the effort required is truly tiny: we can do this by sharing animal pictures, or wishing each other a Happy National Kite Flying Day, or congratulate someone on writing an interesting post.
Some would argue that this type of shallow interaction is not worth the trouble, but I vehemently disagree. Because, in addition to the happiness this flash of socializing brings in the moment, I’m also maintaining relationships with a plethora of experts in wide-ranging fields (and you’d be amazed at the kinds of expertise I’ve had to lean on over the years). Were it not for the occasional goat jumping on a trampoline, I’d have lost touch, and be a few experts short.
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