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Social Media Contexts Moderate Perceptions of Animals

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Scotland EH25 9RG, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(5), 845;
Received: 24 April 2020 / Revised: 1 May 2020 / Accepted: 6 May 2020 / Published: 14 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Ethics)
Social media sites may contribute to the changing ways we see animals. On these sites, people can present animals in different contexts, depending on what message they want to convey, and this may change how people perceive animals, for example making people more likely to want an exotic species as a pet. We showed a mock-up site to 211 people. All people were shown the same image of a primate, but half were shown a negative story and half were shown a positive story. People shown the negative story thought that the primate was more stressed. People responded cautiously to the social media site, even when they thought the primate was stressed. We conclude that social media may not be an honest representation of how people think about primates.
The rapid rise of social media in the past decade represents a new space where animals are represented in human society, and this may influence human perceptions, for example driving desire for exotic pet keeping. In this study, 211 participants (49% female) between the ages of 18 to 44 were recruited to an online survey where they viewed mock-up pages from a social media site. All participants saw the same image of a primate but were randomly assigned to a pro exotic pet keeping or anti exotic pet keeping narrative condition. When participants were presented with the anti narrative they perceived the animal to be more stressed (χ2 = 13.99, p < 0.001). In free text comments, participants expressed reservations in the face of a narrative they disagreed with in free text comments. Overall, this study found evidence to suggest that people moderate their discussions on human-animal interactions based on the social network they are in, but these relationships are complex and require further research. View Full-Text
Keywords: digital cultures; captive primates; exotic pets; digital human-animal interactions digital cultures; captive primates; exotic pets; digital human-animal interactions
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MDPI and ACS Style

Riddle, E.; MacKay, J.R.D. Social Media Contexts Moderate Perceptions of Animals. Animals 2020, 10, 845.

AMA Style

Riddle E, MacKay JRD. Social Media Contexts Moderate Perceptions of Animals. Animals. 2020; 10(5):845.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Riddle, Elizabeth, and Jill R.D. MacKay 2020. "Social Media Contexts Moderate Perceptions of Animals" Animals 10, no. 5: 845.

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