Dogspotting: An Online Community, a Sport, and a Way of Life
An imagined community is one in which the members are from different geographical origins and backgrounds, and may never actually meet face to face. But nevertheless, the members have a sense of unity and affiliation for one another. This is usually based on a shared interest, bringing a sense of identity and belonging. As Nicole Constable discusses in her book, Romance on a Global Stage, the advent of print media first fostered the formation of virtual communities. In recent years, the Internet has been an invaluable platform for imagined communities. It offers access to ever advancing technology to connect people across the world.
I observed the Facebook group “Dogspotting” to learn more about virtual communities. “Dogspotting” is a public Facebook group with 614,582 members (you have to be approved by an admin of the page to post in it). The purpose is simple, to celebrate adorable dogs and the humans who run across them in their every day lives. According to the group’s description, “Dogspotting” is “a sport and lifestyle of spotting random dogs,” as well as “a fun place to hang out with friends and enjoy dogs.” Even though the aim is to have fun, there are clear rules about what constitutes a proper dog spot. For instance, someone cannot “spot” a dog that they already know, that would be considered too easy. Service dogs are also off limits. These rules are strictly enforced by the group’s admins, and members will also call out posts that violate the rules. Members will post pictures of dogs, write witty captions and comment on other spotters’ pictures. Below is a short comic that depicts how several different people interact with the “Dogspotting” virtual community.