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Have you stopped to question Instagram’s viral “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture” trend?

You have probably seen if not participated in the latest “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture” Instagram sticker… but is it real?

UPDATE: New reports have found that the ‘Plant a Tree Co’ claimed responsibility for the Instagram sticker and deleted their original post when they quickly realised they could not plant that many trees. Read more below.

Apart from the lovely bonus of waking up to more pet pictures than usual, you may be wondering who is planting all of these trees? You’d be right to be a little dubious about that “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture” sticker you’ve undoubtedly been seeing all over Instagram.

Currently, the running tree count is approximately 700,000 at the time of writing this article, which is a heck of a lot of trees.

Photo: Pexels

However, like many sensationalised social media trends, we don’t always stop to think if what we are participating in is even real (sorry mum, who reposts “like this and you will receive” Facebook memes daily).

The trend seems to have started out of thin air and with a little digging, we were unable to find any organisation behind these posts.

Instead, there seems to be a range of posts from bot accounts participating in the trend as well as promoting it. With some leading to believe that it is an elaborate marketing ploy to increase followers or subscribers.

According to a YouTube page called Tech Muster, “it was started by one organisation but they deleted later”, adding to the increasingly dubious nature of the trend’s origins.

Image: PedestrianTV

Again, this raises questions about social media activism or “slacktivism”, which refers to lazy, shallow, or performative forms of social justice involvement. Though social media provides us with amazing tools to connect and coordinate social reforms, we have to remain diligent in our involvement rather than simply adding hashtags of support.

That’s not to say social media trends are ineffective altogether, but we should first investigate before re-sharing or retweeting. Always think before you tweet, people, as you may be unwillingly hindering a movement rather than helping. Or in this case, you may not be helping anything at all.

For now though, you can keep the pet pictures coming – with or without a legitimate reason.

 

Earlier today, the ‘Plant a Tree Co’ claimed responsibility for the “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture” sticker. Within 10 minutes of the original post, when the sticker gained a huge amount of attention, the post was deleted as the organisation realised they wouldn’t be able to plant that many trees.

The sticker continued to go viral and a spokesperson from Facebook stated,

“We’re working on ways to make authorship clearer and minimise confusion moving forward.” in regards to the trend.

The ‘Plant a Tree Co’ has since started a fundraiser on its Instagram page to raise more than $1.3 million to plant the 4 million trees as promised.