You know those stupid miniature sweaters and hats people force their little yip dogs to wear? The little kitty vests with the matching scarf or tiara? It’s been going on for years, but I’ve never grasped the need to anthropomorphize these animals.
Until recently, owners had to have the cojones to stand beside their puppy, with his tweed puppy jacket or reindeer antlers, in public. Now, though, we can humiliate our pets by anthropomorphizing them thousands of times more efficiently — and in near anonymity. Rupert Murdoch’s social networking behemoth MySpace now allows us not only to dress our pets in tiny versions of our clothing but to actually become them.
I became aware of this phenomenon when I visited my friend Miles’ MySpace page a few weeks ago and noticed that one of his top friends was “Moscow,” his cat. Clicking on Moscow’s page (how could I not?) I discovered that Moscow has more friends than I do, the little grey bastard. He thinks Miles is “the coolest fucking roommate around,” and his hobbies include “not giving two shits about mice.” I also noticed Moscow’s page is vastly larger than his owner’s — and among his top friends was another cat.
I thought at first that maybe this was an inside joke, something exclusive to that particular circle of friends. But after some prodding, I discovered that my girlfriend’s pet rat, Hitler (don’t get me started), also has a MySpace account, which is clogged with “friend requests” from a small army of MySpace cats. The sly kitties all sent a message with their request claiming they wanted to “get to know him better.” But it was obvious they were interested in only one thing. Jumping from lengthy profile to lengthy profile, I began to see a trend.
People pretending to be dogs threatening people pretending to be cats threatening people pretending to be rats. Evidently, there are thousands of such accounts: pets, cartoon characters, livestock, even inanimate objects. Typically the first or second person on each creature’s Top 8 is the owner, and far more work often seems to go into the animal’s page than the owner’s.
The sociological implications of this impulse are dense indeed. There’s no denying that on social networking sites like MySpace, we all morph our profiles into our most perfect versions of ourselves. The carefully crafted About Me’s, the masterfully cropped pictures to hide those extra pounds. Could these users’ most idealized images of themselves actually be … their pets? Can these avatars act for them in the virtual world in a way their owners never could in the real world?
In the end, I guess it doesn’t hurt the people and it doesn’t hurt the rats, cats, and dogs, so, ultimately, it’s probably harmless.
But I’m definitely gonna have a word with my girlfriend.
The hunt for a permanent Geekly columnist continues. Provide your own 2 cents worth at www.charlestoncitypaper.com