Why TikTok's moustachioed kitten Baffi is an internet sensation!
- Credit: Susie Fowler-Watt
Susie Fowler-Watt is known to hundreds of thousands of people in the east from her TV work. But that's nothing compared to Baffi, as she has discovered...
For many years now, I have been honoured to be a judge at the ESU Public Speaking Finals for secondary schools across the country. This month we are back in person at Cambridge University, with the young people speaking live before an auditorium of guests.
The standard is always remarkably high, and the speeches are thought-provoking. One subject that comes up repeatedly is the the role of social media - would the world be a better place without it?
It’s a question I ponder often, given that I have a teenager who uses it as a primary source of communication. Suggest that she calls a friend to actually speak to them and I get a look of complete disgust - apparently “no-one” does that!
I am on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Linked In, and am expected to be involved in social media as part of my job at Look East. I have brought in a number of stories for the programme after seeing them on one of these sites, but my social media footprint is pretty low and unobtrusive. I have a tendency to post cute pictures of my pets rather than come up with profound statements on life.
It appears, however, that animal pictures are the way to get a following. Our rescue kitten Baffi has completely overtaken all of his human family and built up millions of views and around 60,000 followers on TikTok. What does he do? I hear you ask.
The answer is: absolutely nothing.
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My daughter is his manager and makes the videos in which he stars. The most successful so far involves him just sitting on a stool, looking remarkably unbothered, with a voiceover saying “How do you get so many views? You’re just a black cat!”
So far 4.2 million have seen this and more than a million have ‘liked’ it. It turns out Baffi has fans from Siberia to South America.
The key to Baffi’s success (other than his very talented manager, of course) appears to be that he has a little white moustache. He is also pretty compliant when having a camera pointed at him. The other factor, according to my daughter, is to make the videos in a style that’s on trend.
This, I realise, is where I go wrong. I have little idea what is on trend in any walk of life, but even less so in social media world. My daughter calls me a “Facebook mum” - this is not a compliment - because of the emojis and hashtags I use. Emojis are used in a very different way by the younger generation, I am told.
After I have got over the fact that, despite a 30-year career in broadcasting, I have a cat that is better known than me, I actually find the whole thing fascinating in a social/psychological way. Are people rebelling against the sniping and self-promotion that can often be found online, and opting for more gentle entertainment?
On Look East we recently featured a couple of Instagram influencers from our region - people who have built up huge followings. One posts about her garden and vegetable growing and the other takes beautiful, staged pictures of her country cottage.
This is clearly what we need, post-pandemic, with the world in turmoil - soothing, idyllic images of life as we would like it to be.
We also reported on the role social media was playing in the Ukraine refugee crisis, with people in the UK being able to link up virtually with families they could then sponsor to come and live with them.
Young people have been brought up with social media and it is part of the fabric of their lives. The talented debaters at the public speaking finals this month will doubtless have given this far more thought than me, and come up with many pros and cons.
But my simple answer to the question I posed at the start is that it depends on the poster and the follower. Social media has without doubt caused real damage to some young people, and given them access to unhelpful (or even dangerous) material when their brains are still in development.
But there is also a plethora of kind, funny people online, who are putting smiles on faces. There are also some very handsome cats. As followers we need to vote with our clicks!