by Alisha Ramos

A few weeks ago, I was glued to my phone, anxiously awaiting the launch of a Bark x Glossier partnership, in which the dog toy/supplies company teamed up to create toy versions of the cult beauty brand’s bestsellers, Boy Brow and Balm Dot Com. The next day, I watched the @glossier account with glee as several dogs and puppies of all sizes filed into the Glossier flagship in NYC, playing with their new toys and getting pampered. These are my people, I thought.

A week later, when my order of both Boy Brow and Balm Dot Com arrived in my inbox, I immediately snapped a few photos of my very happy puppy and his new toys, and posted them to his Instagram, @bowiethefluffpup. “YOU WOOF GOOD! I can finally match mom with my @glossier Boy Brow and Balm Dot Com! 😇💗💗” the caption said. A few days after that, Bowie destroyed his Balm Dot Com, leaving little puffs of polyester scattered around on our rug. Instead of feeling frustrated by his mess, I felt pure joy. I thought about Instagramming that, too.

I talk about social media anxiety a lot in the context of self-care. For the most part, when I feel anxious, I try to stay away from screens — especially Instagram. At this point, it feels insidious, a program specifically designed to keep you scrolling, scrolling, scrolling like a zombie. (You’ve read all the thinkpieces about “Instagram-as-performative-highlight-reel,” so I’ll spare you the cultural analysis.)

But what am I supposed to do when I’m truly bored and want to futz around on my phone, doing something mindless without feeling bad about myself?

In other words, what do I do when I want to feel entertained by phone, not imprisoned by it?
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Living my best Brooklyn-wannabe life 🙌 thanks for all the fun @wildone 🐶

A post shared by Otis (@otistheyorkiepoo) on

Enter Dog Mom Instagram. I was first introduced to this world by GNI team member Katrina who has an adorable little floofball (the technical term) named Otis (@otistheyorkiepoo, you definitely want to follow him). She carefully and expertly curates his feed, with photos of Otis looking happy at a park interspersed with pics of him posing as a Taylor Swift album cover.

Dog Mom Instagram is a zany, off-kilter, fun, and wholesome slice of the Internet where dog parents gather to create accounts for their furry children. The accounts will often take on the “voice” of the dog. Friends are “furiends.” Hello is spelled in the cuter variant, “henlo.” Excessive emoji use is encouraged. Dogfluencers like @ellabeanthedog and @hermaninthehood can have upwards of 150,000 followers. Dog moms can also gather IRL — building community!

“This summer I went to my first dog Instagram meetup for International Doodle Dog Day,” Katrina from our team says. “There were events in 40 cities around the world, so I took Otis and Bowie (while I was dogsitting him!) to the Shaw meet-up in DC. There were so many dogs there, and we met some of our Instagram dogs friends and their moms.”

Aside from giving my brain and eyes a beautiful break from the human influencers on my feed, the other special part of Dog Mom Instagram is the supportive community.

Although I’m new to this world, from what I’ve loosely gathered, Dog Mom Instagram is all about positivity and positive reinforcement, for both the dogs and ourselves — as if we are all our own fur children, eagerly waiting for a bit of praise and a fun treat. Instagram posts are often met with enthusiastic remarks, happy usage of emojis, and dog-point-of-view comments.

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they still call it #frenchtoast 😂🇫🇷 @rivieparis @thehoxtonhotel #hermaninyourhood

A post shared by Herman | Dog Model (@hermaninthehood) on

“I’ll take some of that frenchy toast!” @popeyethefoodie recently commented on a post by @hermanthedood.

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It’s my BIRTHDAY! 🎂🎁🎉 . . It’s so hard to believe this boy turns 3 today. I feel like he came home yesterday (but also feel like I’ve known him forever). I’ll spare you all another emotional post, but needless to say, I’ll be spending much of the day feeling incredibly grateful that he came into my life. I also feel incredibly grateful for YOU - this amazing community who sends so much love and support our way. What an incredible gift. So thank you for allowing us into your lives. I will do my best to love on Otis a little extra today! This big guy deserves it! 🙌❤️🎂 (And we are sending a big happy bday hug to all of Otis’s siblings!) ALSO I want to thank @busterspartyshop for the cutest birthday outfit ever! . . . . . . . #sheepadoodle #doodletales #dcdogs #dogsofbark #cutestpuppies #dogbirthday #itsmybirthday #barkday #barkhappy #weeklyfluff #thedodo #busterspartyshop #happybarkday #dogbday #cutedogs #floofydog #sheepadoodlesofinstagram #dogscorner #doggosdoingthings #todayfanphoto

A post shared by Otis The Sheepadoodle (@otis_unleashed) on

“Happy birthday my friend 🎈 🎈 🎈 🎈 🎈” @baileyyourlabradoodle commented on a recent post by @otis_unleashed.

Half the fun is not only posting on Bowie’s feed, but also interacting and commenting on others’ posts with notes of encouragement and emojis. Sometimes, we even participate in “challenges.” For example, inspired by Otis’s “#GoodBoyChallenge,” I created this short video with Bowie too.

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I’m a very good boy! I learned how to “stay and wait” for my treat 😋 Thanks to my furiend @otistheyorkiepoo for the inspiration 💕

A post shared by Bowie the Fluffpup (@bowiethefluffpup) on

You might be wondering how I got here. Don’t I have better things to do? I admit that at first, I held out on creating a separate Instagram for our dog. It felt like too much work. Another account I now have to curate, post to, and engage with?! No thanks. It also felt like I was succumbing to playing “the game” that Instagram has set up — merely using my fur-baby for increased likes, followers, with the hopes of reaching a potentially monetizable “influencer” status.

I finally caved the day I scrolled through my phone and discovered hundreds of photos of Bowie Bowie sitting and smiling. Bowie lying down on his bed in a funny position. Bowie wearing a bowtie. They needed a home. These photos brought me joy and so, I figured, they’d bring others joy, too. I secured the @bowiethefluffpup handle, and we were off to the races.

Now, I turn to Bowie’s account whenever I need a real break. Scrolling through my personal Instagram often feels like another thing on my to-do list; I have to catch up on on who is doing what, traveling where, who to congratulate on their engagement, etc. Trying to figure out what to post to my own feed has become exhausting (and a little anxiety-inducing too, when I calculate the number of random strangers now following me).

Bowie’s account on the other hand, is all…well, dog Instagrams. He’s a dog, so he only follows dogs! His Instagram Stories feel like what YouTube at its most nascent and innocent — an endless repository of happy, fluffy, funny dog videos. His feed is filled with vibrant photos of cute dogs engaged in the zany antics their “hoomans” sometimes orchestrate. In other words, I’ve finally found a form of pure entertainment on my phone.

If you’re not a dog mom or parent, I still highly encourage you to follow some dogs…or generally, any account that makes you feel good, gives you some nice belly laughs, and brings joy. We should feel the freedom to scroll through our social media feeds to be entertained, without having to do tiresome emotional or mental gymnastics.

Creating Bowie’s account and living within it has been a good reminder that the Internet can still be good. There can still be happy and safe corners of it. It can bring all the right weirdos together. This weekend, for instance, I’m looking forward to attending my first dog mom event, a “Wags ‘n’ Whiskers” in my neighborhood – and yes, it will be posted to Bowie’s Stories.

What are your favorite parts of dog mom Instagram? Tell us in the comments below! 👇🐶