Was one of the last DMs you received on Instagram a video of ducklings wearing flowers for hats, or floating in a sink full of water? An overly zealous cockapoo dancing on the couch with his human? A husky throwing a temper tantrum because he couldn’t come indoors?
If sharing cute animal content is your love language, you’re not alone — you are part of a bigger cultural phenomenon called the cute economy.
The cute economy is not only a network of cute content that people participate in making, sharing and circulating but also a multibillion-dollar business due to creators’ ability to monetize their content.
Media researcher James Meese defines the cute economy as the creation and circulation of user-generated content depicting entities (animals, babies, plants, objects, etc.) that are perceived to be cute.
While researchers and journalists have shed light on this social media phenomenon, sharing cute animal photos is not new. Over 100 years ago, photographer Harry Whittier Frees was creating novelty postcards of anthropomorphic animals.
Our research focuses on the specific but sizeable segment of the cute economy that circulates pet content. We find the cuteness of pet content is depicted through the following archetypes: goofy or silly animals, small (aka “smol”) or young animals, inter-species content, child-animal pairs, extreme sizes and ratios (very small or very big), unusual looks and animal behaviours that we construe as human-like.
While some pet accounts have more followers than politicians and celebrities to generate their own virality — like Jiff Pom at 9.9 million, Nala at 4.3 million, Doug the Pug at 3.9 million and Juniper at three million — another catalyst for the circulation of cute pet content is meme or feature accounts that display curated reused content like Matt Nelson’s omni-platform enterprise WeRateDogs.
Much like mom influencers who create social media accounts for their human babies, pet parents have also been creating social media accounts to show off their domesticated companions.
Given that people have been humanizing their pets since before the dawn of the internet, a pet’s social media presence is a form of pretend play.
Pet account managers humanize their fur babies visually by using clothing, accessories or props. They also humanize their pets textually, by providing them with a human-like voice.
The content creator will even add species-specific lexicon like catspeak, also known as meowlogisms, or infantalized speech such as lolspeak — the Internet slang originating from lolcat memes.
Still, cuteness has a threshold. Several participants we interviewed for our research explained that while anthropomorphism can be cute, if it appears forced or inauthentic, it becomes perceived as the opposite of cute.
And many content creators have caught on to this curation of cute and ensure their content doesn’t deteriorate into cringe.
One of our interviewees (who manages an account for her tortoise) expressed her discomfort and uncertainty over creating captions. She says its hard finding “the balance there between, it being cringey and entertaining.”
Nurturing relationships: Cute content is shared because it depicts a relatable experience to its appreciators. It also serves as a gift of care and a sign of closeness in a relationship.
One of our interviewees knows her stepdaughter is a fan of horses, and specifically sends horse content to her. We find that this gesture signals that the sender truly knows what warms the receiver’s heart.
Aspiring for a future: Consuming cute content can also be aspirational. For instance, one of our interviewees hopes to adopt a dog when she moves to a pet-friendly building. She is dedicated to following accounts that portray her aspirational lifestyle like The Golden Ratio.
Vicarious interspecies connection: Cute content fulfils its consumers because it allows them to interact with animals from a distance, without the need to allocate any resources for taking care of them.
One of our interviewees, an otter-lover, insatiably consumes online otter content but does not wish or have the skills to domesticate one.
For a cause: Cute content can also serve as a medium of change. A creator or appreciator may share content to increase awareness about a cause or to change the opinion of others.
For example, one of our interviewees manages her domesticated duck’s account which depicts her duck being friendly, loving and having a unique personality, much like any traditional domestic animal. Through her duck account, this pet parent aims to teach her followers about the harms of speciesism, and advocates for a cruelty free co-existence with all animals.
Research has shown that watching cute animal videos is good for our own mental health.
Whether you are a creator, appreciator or both, cute content is a conversation starter and relationship facilitator: it breaks ice when people lack topics to discuss, or when they wish to let others know that they care.
Given people’s inability to get together as frequently and intimately due to the pandemic, we’ve been able to share our love from a distance using these small tokens of care.
Society is fortunate that technology enables people to strengthen connections. But, because we can’t have nice things, there exists a dark side of the cute economy so be mindful of sharing content of animals who might have been exploited.
Ghalia Shamayleh is a PhD candidate in marketing at Concordia University. Her research interests pertain to the effect of technology and the internet, namely social media, on consumers’ expression of identity, their relationships with other consumers and the brands they consume.
Canadian dollar rises as selloff in U.S. bonds ebbs
The Canadian dollar strengthened against the greenback on Thursday as U.S. bond yields stabilized and Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, said it would soon ease restrictions to curb the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The loonie was trading 0.3% higher at 1.2472 to the greenback, or 80.18 U.S. cents, after trading in a range of 1.2454 to 1.2516.
Among G10 currencies, only the Australian dollar notched a bigger gain. Both Canada and Australia are major producers of commodities.
“Interest rate differentials are tilting against the (U.S.)dollar, lifting the appeal of currencies leveraged to rest-of-world growth,” said Karl Schamotta, chief market strategist at Corpay.
U.S. Treasury yields have pulled back from 2-year highs as data showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week.
Ontario has blunted transmission of the Omicron variant and it will gradually ease restrictions on businesses from end-January, Premier Doug Ford said.
Despite the prospect of slower economic growth due to restrictions, investors have raised bets that the Bank of Canada will hike interest rates on Jan. 26. It would be the first hike since October 2018.
Data from payroll services provider ADP showed that Canada added 19,200 jobs in December, the fifth straight month of gains
Canadian retail sales data, due on Friday, could offer more clues on the strength of the domestic economy.
The price of oil, one of Canada’s major exports, settled 0.1% lower at $86.90 a barrel as U.S. crude inventories rose for the first time in eight weeks and investors took profits after a recent rally.
Canadian government bond yields were mixed across a flatter curve. The 10-year eased 2.4 basis points to 1.857%, after touching on Wednesday its highest intraday level since March 2019 at 1.905%.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Sandra Maler)
Toronto market hits 2-week low as rate hike angst weighs
Canada’s main stock index on Thursday fell to its lowest level in more than two weeks as worries about the inflation outlook and prospects for higher interest rates weighed on investor sentiment.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended down 146.98 points, or 0.7%, at 21,058.18, its lowest closing level since Jan. 5.
“The non-stop inflation headlines, talk about interest rates have scared the market,” said Barry Schwartz, a portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.
Data on Wednesday showed that Canadian inflation climbed in December to a 30-year high.
Investors have raised bets on the Bank of Canada hiking interest rates at a policy announcement next week and are also concerned the Federal Reserve could become aggressive in controlling inflation.
The TSX gained 22% in 2021, its best yearly performance since 2009, supported by massive stimulus, vaccine rollouts and hopes of global economic recovery.
“The markets are deciding that the last few years people have made way too much money and it is time to give some of that back,” Schwartz said.
Broad-based gains included a 2.2% decline for consumer discretionary shares, while the basic materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, ended 1.8% lower.
Energy was down 0.7% as an uptick in U.S. crude inventories arrested the recent move higher in oil prices. U.S. crude oil futures settled 0.1% lower at $86.90 a barrel.
Heavily weighted financials fell 0.4%.
Among 11 major sectors, utilities was the only one to end higher, gaining 0.2%.
(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Additional reporting by Amal S in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Any sanctions on Russia would not widely impact global, U.S. economy -White House – National Post
WASHINGTON — Any sanctions imposed on Russia over its aggression toward Ukraine would not particularly expose the U.S. economy, although the Biden administration is focused on any possible impact on oil, White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said on Thursday.
“The actions that we have ready and that we are working closely with our allies to deploy would impose very significant costs across time on the Russian economy, and it would do so in a way that mitigates the impact on the global economy and the American economy,” he told CNN. (Reporting by Susan Heavey Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)
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