Social media has forever changed the way we interact with the world, be it the interactions with friends and family or business associates and clients. A recent New York Times article, “I Tweet Therefore I Am,” questioned whether or not people truly enjoy an experience when they are so preoccupied with figuring out what they are going to say about it in 140 characters or less to their hundreds of online followers.
In my daily pet care business, I maintain journals for the animals that I see on a regular basis. In them I describe how a dog—I usually don’t visit cats on an ongoing, daily basis—is behaving during my visit and our activities together. These daily entries are my low-tech version of a daily tweet, having only one or two followers. Like those that send their tweets out into the internet cloud, I too am often preoccupied by what it is I am going to say about my time with an animal. (There is only so much that can be written about a dog’s bodily functions.)
After reading the Times article, I became concerned I was not enjoying my time spent with the animals and not giving them as much attention as I should because of my need to “tweet” about the experience. My thought pattern became a vicious cycle of trying to focus on the animal’s activities, pleasures, and the context of the moment—immersing myself in our time together— juxtaposed with observing it from an outsider’s perspective. (Although, this vigilance does have a positive side benefit. By knowing well what normal behavior is for the dog, it is easier to discern what might be indicative of an illness, injury, or even signs of stress the animal is feeling.)
Ultimately, it seems that there is a delicate balance between being conscious enough about what is we are experiencing without losing the pleasure of the moment. I came to realize that I would have often missed the pleasure of seeing an unusual bird tucked into a tree or the beauty of a flower if I hadn’t been paying close attention to my furry friends in order to comment upon them. They draw my attention to what it is they see, hear, or smell.
As a dog walker I have far too much time alone to think and like most things in life, it’s all about moderation. I’ll have to log into my Twitter account and tweet about this.
[This is the “Editor’s Notes” from the April/May ’11 issue of Pet Tails.]