It’s pretty obvious how our fur babies enhance our lives. Have you ever thought about all the animals that you are familiar with, perhaps Follow on social media, and look forward to staying up to date on the latest news or videos of them? What’s happening here? Do these relationships somehow enhance our lives too?
What I’m referring to is called para-social relationships. A para-social relationship is a one-sided relationship, most commonly with humans where there is a feeling of connection with this other human, be it a public figure or someone on social media. There is so much available about the person that you feel a kinship of sorts with them, but the other person doesn’t know who you are or that you even exist. An example may be feeling like you are friends with one of the Royals, a Hollywood star or perhaps a sports figure. If something great happens for the person you share in the joy. If something negative happens in their life you may feel sad about it.
Similar para-social relationships are on the rise with animals. Like human para-social relationships, these are relationships where the person feels fondness, friendship, kinship connections with an animal on social media or in the public eye, yet they are one-sided.
There are varying types of furry para-social relationships that range from the cute, funny, simply to make you feel good connections, to those that are animal ambassadors that educate and promote awareness for causes. For example, animal ambassador, Cecil the Lion, brought attention to trophy hunting, while Alawa, Kikkai and Zepher (a popular ambassador that passed away) at the Wolf Conservation Center assist with education and fund raising.
So, how do furry (or feathered or scaled, etc.) para-social relationships make a difference in our lives? Can they help us?
As with relationships with our own furry loved ones, a para-social relationship with an animal, even though it’s one-sided, can be beneficial for our well-being. Here are some ways they help.
Connection is important and animal para-social relationships provides a way to feel connected.
Heal from loss
Para-social relationships may help individuals heal from the loss of their own furry loved one.
Animal ambassadors help educate. It can be as simple as learning how to treat animals or something that gets us to re-visit judgments or misconceptions we may have about certain animals or breeds (i.e. Pit Bulls, Dobermans).
Reduces Stress Levels
Anxiously awaiting the next video or update provides a way to step out of being so serious or intense. They make us smile, laugh or cheer for the underdog, thus reducing stress levels!
A Place to Focus One's Deep Love
It provides a place for a person to focus their deep love in a way that they may not be comfortable doing otherwise (especially if they do not live with a pet).
Creates a Sense of Family
If a person is in a situation where they can’t have a furry companion, they can enjoy this connection and feel like the animal is part of their own family.
These are just some of the ways furry para-social relationships can be beneficial.
My furry para-social relationship is with Aymie and Family that features Penny the talking cat on YouTube. At first, I laughed, which made me want to watch more. The more I watched, the deeper I felt a connection with her. There is a special way she ends almost every video that brings me back to my childhood. I look forward with anticipation and watch for new videos that have posted. This “relationship” brings me joy and I also noticed my concern when Penny recently had full mouth tooth extractions!
Do you have any para-social relationships with either domestic animals or animals in the wild? Have you stopped to consider the effects they have on your well-being?