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Feeling lonely online? Share a pic of your pet, says psychologist

06 Mar 2020

The internet something of a double-edged sword at times – while it’s a great platform in which to share your life (and pictures of animals), social media in particular can be a lonely place for some.

To address some of the more negative aspects of online life, pet food brand Pedigree and a bunch of New Zealanders have created a new app that asks people to post pictures of their pets. 

The app uses an algorithm that scans social media for negative sentiment and then asks people to create animal pictures or positive content in response.

Cormac van den Hoofdakker is a spokesperson for Pedigree. He hopes the algorithm will help to minimise some of the more negative parts of social media.

“We wanted to find a way to encourage Kiwis to share images of their dogs in a way that would provide some balance to some of the darker side of social media that many of us and, particularly teenagers are exposed to each day,” he says.

He cites a recent study by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, which found that 89% of survey respondents who got a pet to address loneliness felt less lonely. What’s more, A further quarter of pet owners interviewed stated they got a pet to improve their mental health, and 55% of respondents aged over 55 years old doing even more likely to do so.

Another study found that dogs can help to reduce stress levels, depression and loneliness.

Sara Chatwin is a psychologist who says that many Kiwis seek help for issues like body image, bullying, isolation, and loneliness.

She says that when people are repeatedly exposed to negative content on social media, it can all add up to have a detrimental impact.

“Social media followers often forget that the images on social media do not depict “real life” and therefore they are comparing their reality to an ‘unreality’. This is dangerous, unhealthy and has resulted in more Millennials reporting depressive symptoms, anxiety and discontent with their lives,” she says.

She also notes that Generation Z buys into social media to the extent that they may neglect other parts of their lives.

“This age group are becoming needy with respect to “likes” and social judgement so much so that when they don’t get the positivity from these kinds of media they become desperate - It’s no coincidence the suicide rate amongst this age group has increased,” she says.

The Pedigree DentaStix Studios app is available for download on iOS and Android devices.