The number of people sharing viral animal videos on social media increased dramatically last year.
The number reached a record-high in the first half of 2017.
That’s according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications, which analyzed videos uploaded in the last two weeks.
In 2016, the average number of views on a viral video was just under 700,000, according to the Pew Research Center.
The average number in 2017 was more than 2.3 billion views, the researchers found.
The number of comments posted to the viral video in 2017 spiked to an average of about 1,200 per video.
More people shared their experiences with animals than any other kind of viral video, the study found.
The comments on animal videos grew from just 0.8 percent of the total number of videos in 2016 to almost 13 percent in 2017.
“The number is staggering.
And it’s a result of our desire to make the world a more compassionate place,” said study author Dr. Sarah M. Hagan, a research scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Hagan, who led the study with her colleague James L. Goss, said the trend reflects a growing awareness that animals are sentient beings.
“People want to understand how they feel, so they start asking questions,” Hagan said.
“This is part of that awareness.”
Hagan said the new study provides a clearer picture of what motivates people to share animal videos online.
“Our findings suggest that people are responding to animals and seeing their actions in the same way that people have seen others in other contexts,” she said.
The researchers say the video sharing increase in 2017 may have come as a result from social media platforms’ efforts to increase transparency about animal welfare and animal rights.
“In the face of growing public awareness, we expected the video share of animals would be higher, but we didn’t expect it to grow so rapidly,” Haga said.
Hagan and Goss hope their study will be used to inform other animal advocacy organizations and researchers.
“As social media companies continue to work to improve their animal welfare policies, we need to be mindful of their impact on the human experience,” Goss said.