May 1, 2017
Cat Videos On The Internet Are Purr-fect
4,000 years ago, the first cats were domesticated by the Ancient Egyptians who used domesticated cats to catch vermin. Now, cats have transcended this simple task by becoming internet sensations such as: Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, Nyan Cat, Maru, and Lolcats. Domestic cats are some of the most viewed content on the web and have attracted the attention of scholars who strive to analyze why this form of art becomes iconic and psychologists who research the positive effects of cat videos. Research has shown that watching cat videos not only helps viewers regulate their emotions, but it also allows the viewers to imagine a world where they are not constantly surveillanced.
Cat videos are associated with procrastination and are cited as a guilty pleasure but those derogatory titles may not hold true. Jessica Gall Myrick, media scholar at Indiana University, surveyed nearly 7,000 internet users to explore how emotions are affected by the viewing of internet cats. Her results, shown in the bar chart below, support the idea that “happiness gained from viewing Internet cats can moderate the relationship between procrastination motives, guilt, and enjoyment.”
Cat videos have been proven to cause positive feelings but their effect on behavior has not been fully researched, until now. A Japanese study led by four scientists examined the effect of cute images on various tasks such as “fine motor dexterity” tasks. University students were asked to perform various tasks after viewing cute images. For all trials, viewing cute images narrowed the focus of the participants, allowing their performance on the tasks to improve.
Cat videos have been proven multiple times to be a rewarding experience for the viewers’ brains that increases effectiveness for tasks. Another topic of research is cats’ indifference to filming, since from the FBI to the Department of Homeland Security to the Defense Department, various surveillance programs have been implemented by the government to watch what citizens do online. For example, the Department of Homeland Security tracks approximately 380 keywords organized into categories such as cyber security or emergencies and weather or terrorism. There are many psychological risks of mass surveillance – under certain conditions, constant surveillance can encourage social conformity, promote distrust and increase mental strain and stress. The positive effects of cat videos (providing a dopamine boost and keeping negative emotions in check) can combat the negative effects of constant surveillance.
A researcher at Massey University in New Zealand analyzed cat videos and found that the cat videos popular on the internet tend to have a few key characteristics. “They are generated by users, shot on a mobile device such as a phone, and set in a domestic environment.” These characteristics set up the viewers as “observers” to the cat’s actions with the cats being indifferent to the filming. The cats are oblivious to the camera which contrasts against other online videos. When dogs are filmed, they make eye contact with the camera and understand, to some extent, that they are being watched. “The cats’ apparent uninhibited behavior gives the viewer the illusion of voyeuristically catching a glimpse of a self-sufficient world. This lack of self-consciousness and sense of authenticity are key to their reception as ‘cute’ videos.”
When asked, internet users might say that cat videos are merely for entertainment, but on closer inspection, they not only regulate viewers negative emotions, but also combat the stress of constant surveillance. Surveillance programs sponsored by the government to watch citizens’ internet usage places strain on them. Cat videos are the purr-fect combatant for whenever a dopamine rush is wanted.
This is my best possible 2fer because I edited my thesis statement throughout my writing process. A few times, I found a very interesting study that I knew I had to include after tweaking my thesis. In other 2fers, I researched information that would just prove my existent thesis which didn't allow me to use other arguments that were still applicable to my topic. My flexibility during this 2fer allowed my argument to be changed depending on my research and made my essay more well-rounded.
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