I'll admit I was late to the social networking party. Once I joined Facebook, though, I soon realized it was a wonderful way to reconnect with friends and find out which of the mean girls from high school had gotten really fat.
One thing I didn't count on, however, was that Facebook would return me to high school in other ways - like my creeping insecurity about the number of friends I have. I know it's not cool to care, but I can't help but notice when others have lots more Facebook friends than me. Especially when those others are covered in fur and lack opposable thumbs for writing clever status updates.
Which leads me to this list, which is a handy guide to the world of animals on Facebook and not at all a poorly veiled cry for more virtual friends. (NB: Yes, Facebook nerds, I know these are technically fan pages, and I'm equating fans to friends here. The point: Why do more people like these guys than me?)
1. Paul the psychic octopus: 71,943 friends. A resident of the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany, Paul the Octopus correctly predicted the winners of eight World Cup matches. Before each match, Paul was presented with two boxes, each containing a mussel and marked with the flag of one of the national teams, culminating in his correct prediction of Spain over the Netherlands in the final. Having refused, going through his trainers, offers to relocate to Spain, Paul retired from the soccer psychic business, and seems to be mainly posting music videos these days. He is a Renaissance cephalopod.
2. Oscar the death-predicting cat: 2,302 friends. Oscar is the nursing-home cat that showed an uncanny knack for knowing which elderly resident was next to die. As detailed in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, and then in a book called Making Rounds with Oscar, the cat would curl up next to certain patients who, more often than not, would die soon after. (For suspicious minds, no, the cat was not actually killing the patients.) Oscar favours quotations from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. As psychic friends go, I'd rather hang out with Paul.
3. Animal, from the Muppets: 77,815 friends. Can't really argue with this. Animal is awesome. In his member profile, Animal identifies his genre as "BEAT DRUMS! BEAT DRUMS!" Classic Animal.
4. Riot Dog: 33,714 friends. This Athens stray has attended every major protest since 2008, and he's in the news photos to prove it. He follows in the paw prints of another Athens protest regular, Kanellos, who by most accounts passed away in 2008 (and yet still has 2,412 Facebook friends. To recap: a dead, homeless dog has more friends than I do.) One commenter on Riot Dog's Facebook page muses, "Does he believe in the overthrow of private ownership? Does he see the rioters as his pack? Does he just hope that the police are going to start throwing those big sticks for him to fetch?" We can only wait for Riot Dog's eventual autobiography to answer these questions.
5. Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay: 80,729 friends. This rhesus macaque on the lam has been outwitting trappers and shrugging off tranquilizer darts in the Tampa Bay area for more than a year now and has garnered quite the following for his freedom-loving ways. His occasional spottings and imagined inner life are chronicled on his Facebook page, which lists personal interests including bananas, swinging through trees, the theory of relativity and postmodern art.
6. Christian the Lion: 21,230 friends. In swinging 1969 London, two friends purchased a lion cub from Harrods department store and raised him until he was a year old. Then, realizing that a London apartment was not such a great place for a lion, they handed him over to a wildlife conservationist in Kenya to rehabilitate Christian back into the wild. A year later, the two men travelled to Kenya to try to find Christian - and you've got to watch the YouTube video to see what happens next, complete with cheesy Whitney Houston soundtrack. Don't mind me, I'll just be over here tending to something in my eye … uh, allergies. Sniff.
7. Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog: 2,666 friends. Come on. Christian the Lion I can understand, but this is just embarrassing. This Dalmatian with a kind of lame name has more friends than I do? And consider this recent status update: "Almost 2,700 friends. Woo hoo!" Way to rub it in, fire safety dog. Okay, he does look pretty cute in his red firefighter's hat. Still, I have to take issue when he says that a fire alarm "is telling you GET OUT! GET OUT!" Sometimes in my house it's just telling you that dinner is READY! READY! So, easy there, Sparkles.
8. Max the Wiener Dog: 136 friends. At last! An animal with exactly the same number of Facebook friends as me. Max is a soulful black-and-tan dachshund who seems to reside in Wisconsin, and according to his profile he enjoys "snuggling, taking naps in the sun [and]burrowing under blankets." Me too! What I appreciate about Max is that unlike some other Facebook animals (coughcoughRiotDogandMysteryMonkey), Max does not weigh in on politics or current affairs, but sticks to doggish observations about tummy rubs and the simple pleasures of rolling in freshly cut grass. Don't ever change, Max - especially not your friends list.