Social media has become a big part of how we communicate. For pet owners, the platform can be both very useful and enjoyable while being simultaneously fraught with peril. Whether you have just joined social media or you are an experienced fan, there are a few guidelines to participating in ways that are beneficial to everyone.
An Opportunity to Learn
Social media can be a great way to learn about pets and their owners, to experience new dog breeds and find out new ways to handle common problems you might experience with your pets. It is important, however, to remember that you are talking with EVERYONE: while some of the people you interact with may be experts, others may know very little or even spread false and damaging information.
It’s a good idea to double check any information you get on social media with your veterinarian, obedience trainer, or other pet care professional that you trust. Not all ideas on social media are inferior, but neither all are of them beneficial or even based in fact. Checking with your vet will allow you to investigate possible treatments or methods to make sure that you are taking the best advice.
It is also becoming more common for prospective pet owners to find pets on social media. In the case of rescue and shelter pets, this is fantastic! If you work with a volunteer group or are attempting to find a fur-ever home for an animal, social media can help you get that pet’s face out there and raises the chances that someone will adopt. You can also rescue pets you see on social media.
One word of caution should accompany any “pet exchange” that occurs on social media – buyer beware. Posters are not required to be truthful or forthcoming about the pet’s condition or reason for surrender, so if you are rescuing a pet on social media, be prepared for anything. Animals could need rehab or care that is not obvious in the post. Buying from a breeder on social media is equally tricky. The same rules that apply to finding and selecting a breeder should apply to social media – ask for a contract and a “warranty”, and look for references and club memberships before you assume that the cute puppy or kitten on the screen is everything it is celebrated to be.
Mind Your Manners
Most of us have been “bashed” by someone on social media – someone who doesn’t agree with you and wants to start an argument. Be careful to avoid telling other pet owners that they are wrong or that they should be caring for their pets differently. It’s hard to know a person’s whole situation, and you are better off staying silent publicly. If you feel a need to contact someone about their pet care, try using a private message, and make sure that your tone is helpful and compassionate.
When you do see posts that worry you, report them to the social media moderators. You might mean well, but you could also be the butt of legal action if you appear to slander or incorrectly accuse someone of a crime. While it’s good to be socially proactive, there are plenty of resources manned by those who have a lot of experience handling such situations. Let them do what they do best and report problems to moderators.
The convenience and value of social media are undeniable. You can find out about events for you and your pets, learn from world renowned doctors, geneticists, and behaviorists, and connect with those who share your interests and have great tips about how to have a better relationship with your pet. If you play by the rules, you can be a better pet parent and a better citizen in the pet loving community.