Nick Greenizan

COLUMN: Puppy content proves the perfect online palate cleanser

Posts of friends’ furry family members can only help improve mental health

Bring on the puppies.

I often joke that I like animals more than people, and while that isn’t true as a blanket statement, I will say that I like most animals better than some people.

Many of those people are online.

It’s not exactly breaking news to suggest that social media can be something of a cesspool of human decency.

Disgraced comedian Louis CK (speaking of human cesspools), once said of his smartphone, “I stare into this thing, and it makes me feel upset” and lately – especially over the course of the pandemic – I’ve started to feel the same.

In recent months, I’ve unfriended old high-school pals for their terrible opinions about everything from police brutality to trucker convoys; I’ve blocked the father of one of my friends on Twitter because, after discovering he was online, quickly realized he spends his free time railing against the mere existence of transgender people, or tweeting “RESIGN!” at Justin Trudeau’s Twitter account.

I just don’t need that kind of energy in my life – online or elsewhere. And I suspect things are only going to get worse once everyone’s favourite billionaire Elon Musk – who rails against a perceived lack of free speech when he isn’t busy launching rockets to nowhere – finalizes his deal to buy Twitter.

Which brings me back to the puppies.

Recently, a few friends have acquired new pets. And as one does, they have taken to posting photos of their new furry family members on Facebook and Instagram.

Like, a lot of photos. But you’ll find no complaints from me. It’s much better for my own mental health – and the betterment of society in general, I’d argue – to see three dozen photos of Doug, the 10-week-old golden lab, or Gus, the German shepherd pup, than it is to read a Twitter thread about what books are being banned where.

In fact, I have so enjoyed the recent proliferation of animal photos, I’ve decided to curate my various social-media feeds to feature more of them.

And for anyone else struggling to find a way to cope with the non-stop influx of online debris, I suggest you do the same.

Puppies, kittens, birds… hell, it doesn’t even have to be cute animals. Just whatever brings you some joy. I recently discovered – quite by accident – that a Facebook group exists called “The Same Photo of Jeff Goldblum Every Day” in which the moderator does exactly what the name suggests. It has a few hundred members, so it’s working for somebody. And more power to ’em, I say.

Whatever – and whoever – you choose to follow online is up to you, but it’s important to have these palate cleansers, especially after years of non-stop COVID-19 discourse.

Granted, it’s nearly impossible – and probably not advisable – to cut yourself off from the Internet to the point where you are left uninformed about the world.

It’s still good to stay up-to-date on the important stuff, and like it or not, the Internet is where most of that stuff lives. Somewhere exists a happy medium, you just have to look hard to find it, because the online world today is Short Attention Span Theatre – you can be outraged about a dozen things before you’ve had your morning coffee if you try hard enough.

My philosophy on social media these days is akin to taking a shower while someone elsewhere in the house flushes a toilet – get in and get out before you get burned.

Mix in a few puppies, and you’re all set.

And for God’s sake don’t read the comments.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

Internet and Telecom