Smile But Don’t Touch

Ever heard of a Quokka? No? Well it’s only a cute grinning critter that’s part of the latest and greatest selfie trend on Instagram right now. Oh, and they’re guaranteed to put a grin on your mug while they’re trending away.

If you check out this link you’ll see that the Quokka is a smallish fur-covered animal that’s one of Australia’s tinier Wallaby species—about the size of a cat and looking something like a cross between a baby kangaroo and, ahem, a rat. (But we won’t hold that against them.)

The Quokka’s largest claim to fame, though, is its big ol’ grin. In fact, any random Quokka passing by on the sunny fields and dales of Rottnest Island consistently looks so happy to see you that people from all around the world can’t seem to stop snapping selfies with them.

And the little fellas appear to love the attention. Without a single shred of fear they’ll stroll up and mug for their adoring human fans, tipping their heads, sticking out their tongues, and generally soaking up every bit of the15-minutes-of-fame spotlight as possible.

Sure, the smiling visage is all a genetic happenstance. And those little critters are likely just there to scrounge up any scraps of cookie or cracker that the odd human creatures want to drop. But don’t tell the Instagramers that. ‘Cause hey, we humans love to anthropomorphize and we do adore our selfies. Even if they can be a little dangerous.

Here’s an interesting tidbit that all those scores of Quokka-lovers rarely share: It’s illegal to touch these little guys. If you do reach out to give one a quick pet or a random ruffle, you can be slapped with a $300 fine. They’re endangered, you see. And then there’s the simple fact that these are wild animals and, well, they bite. They’ve also been known to carry a virus or two that might make a nip to the nose during a Quokka close-up far more costly than you’d expect.

In a way, then, this latest selfie trend might well be seen as something of a metaphor for the social media experience. I mean, it’s all smiling and cuddly on the surface, but beware, even the fun and doggone cute can deliver an unexpected yowch if you’re not careful.

Who wrote this?

Bob Hoose is a senior associate editor for Plugged In, a producer/writer for Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, a writer of plays and musicals and one-half of the former comedy/drama duo Custer & Hoose. He is a husband, father of three and a relatively new granddad.

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