Pets and Polling: An Unlikely Combination?

Source: @rosieasmith16
The role of social media in contemporary political life is well documented; from offering new scope for young people's engagement to improving the outdated reputation of politics. So, it is surprising that despite #dogsatpollingstations dominating news media on polling day, that a lack of discussion followed about why this Twitter trend has caught our imaginations. 


How it works
1) Take your dog with you to your polling station
2) Take a photo of your dog in front of the polling station sign
3) Upload the photo to social media, typically Twitter

It seems that two identities are shared by taking part, that of pet owner and voter. Both identities may be symbolic for constructing a 'respectable' sense of self. The photograph is evidence for using your right to vote and may encourage others to do the same - like a 'good' citizen who cares about their country. Similarly, it represents 'good' pet-keeping in the context of a country that values dogs as beloved companions who accompany us about our daily business. 

By the photographer or audience, this cultural practice may be deemed cute or funny in constrast with the volatility of the country's future shape. So, it seems to offer a distraction from the exclusivity, seriousness and formality often associated with party politics. This may be a positive move to avoid apathy and acts as a reminder that voting can be part of everyday routine, such as whilst walking the dog! We know that the presence of pets in the visual culture of social media is nothing new, but #dogsatpollingstations embeds the lure of social petworking as a tool which may improve the impression of our political culture.

Cats also took centre stage during the election, as media discourse homed in on Palmerston and Larry, the chief mousers at the Foreign Office and No.10 Downing Street. Their biography, work and relationships were scrutinised much like that of political figures. But, it seems that it is their difference to humans 
that is the most captivating. It's ironic that in a period in which the meaning of democracy matters more than ever, a fascination persists with those who are unable to voice an opinion. Do we find the lives of cats and dogs comforting to escape from the destruction or hope that words create?


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