This could be the healthiest and least imbecilic fad to hit college campuses in a long, long time.
It’s a simple little idea — taking a photo of a dog who is out in public and posting it online — though the rules, which vary from one Dogspotting group to another, can get much more complex.
It strikes me as a much better use of time than PokéGo, in which people step out into nature and then ignore it while transfixed to their electronic devices, searching for creatures/objects/whatever that aren’t really there, other than virtually.
Dogspotting has been around, and has had an international following, since 2006, but in the past few years it has caught on as smartphones have evolved. Nationally, it now has more than 300,000 members.
At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, sophomore Emily Korest started a Facebook Dogspotting group earlier this month. It already has more than 500 members.
“If you miss your dog at home this is the group for you!” she wrote in a post, “A collective to inform on dog sightings, post cute pics of dogs, and for dog owners to let us know when we can hang out with their dogs.”
“I have a couple friends who go to different colleges that have Dogspotting groups, and I just assumed that we had one and that I wasn’t in it and I realized we didn’t,” Korest told the Daily Tarheel.
“I just really like seeing dogs. I feel like we’re all really stressed — it’s midterm season — and every student deserves to have dogs in their lives.”
It’s not uncommon, when a new photo or video is posted of, say, a dog in The Pit, a gathering area outside the student union, for participating dog-loving students to stop what they’re doing and go meet it.
“I am more in it for actually seeing the dogs on campus,” Korest said. “I like the pictures a lot, but when somebody says, ‘There’s one in the Pit now,’ and I’m in Davis, I can just walk out and see the dog. That’s what I want.”
Nobody seems too interested in the game’s point system — one point for posting a photo, two more points if that dog is eating something — and the UNC group, unlike some others, has a pretty lax set of rules.
According to The Guardian, he came up with some rules and shared them on the comedy website SomethingAwful.com in 2006. The Facebook group was created in 2009.
“From the very beginning, Dogspotting was something that I thought was cool to share with people in a personal, real-life setting,” Savoia said. “It’s great that, despite the majority of it happening online, people are brought together by dogs.”
Of course, like any pursuit carried out by humans, over the Internet, it has the potential to abruptly turn mean, vicious, perverted or hazardous to one’s health.
At its core, though, it’s a pure and refreshing pursuit.
“I just love dogs,” sophomore Ryan Alderman, a member of the UNC group, explained. “Dogs are such pure, beautiful animals, and I love them so much. We don’t deserve them, and I like that other people feel the same way, and we can point them out and tell you where you can pet them. It’s just so sweet.”
(Photos from the Facebook page of UNC’s Dogspotting group)