By Emily Cole
In the Twitter sea of celebrities, political discourse, and memes, one college student has found success in a corner of the platform by taking simple pictures of dogs to a whole new level.
Matthew Nelson, 20, a student at Campbell University in North Carolina, created We Rate Dogs (@dog_rates) in 2015. It started as a way to entertain his 10,000 followers he had amassed from his participation in “Weird Twitter,” an area of Twitter dedicated to a certain peculiar sense of humor that started on the website.
We Rate Dogs turns two years old today and is now a full-blown business with 4.2 million followers.
“If you’re in the wrong parts of Twitter, it can easily be described as a cesspool of horrible things. So in that way, you can see my account as an escape,” said Nelson in an interview with Esquire magazine.
“You can pick and choose who you follow and adjust your experience by doing that, but there are people that don’t have a choice but to deal with everyday news. I can see how for them it would truly be like, ‘This is where I go to not hate everything.’”
A typical We Rate Dogs tweet or Instagram post will feature a dog that has been submitted to the account through private messages. Nelson receives over 1,200 submissions per day.
One of these dogs is Charlie, a four-year-old Border collie owned by Tom Brady – not the Patriots quarterback – from Fox Lake, Illinois. Charlie has actually been featured twice on the account. Once was in August when We Rate Dogs was raising money for One Tail at a Time, an animal shelter in Chicago, and asked for stories of adopted shelter animals.
“I sent my story in along with photos of Charlie (and his ‘sister’ Nora) and was surprised when they chose me,” said Brady via email. “I was very happy, and many friends who know Charlie chimed in to say what a sweetheart he is. Then I turned off all Twitter notifications because oh my goodness did things blow up (in a good way!)”
Along with the submitted pictures of “doggos” and “puppers,” (as is the common We Rate Dogs lingo), Nelson captions the photo or photos with a rating of the dog based on its actions, setting, or the breed itself.
Finally, the dog receives a rating out of 10, however no dog ever receives a score lower than an eleven.
“I’ve been following We Rate Dogs for a little over a year now,” said Morgan, 21, from Columbus, Ohio. “I think that it’s just a really unique and hilarious thing to do, I love the wit and the humor that goes into each rate, and I’m a sucker for puns as well. Also, I love seeing cute dogs so all of those were definitely the drive towards me following the account.”
Morgan’s dog, Porpentina, or Porpy for short, was also featured recently. Porpy is a five-month-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi and was rated a 13/10.
“When I saw that she had been featured on We Rate Dogs my initial reaction was ‘Oh, God, she’s gonna [sic] be more of a diva than she already is,’” said Morgan. “Thankfully she has taken this adjustment to Twitter fame quite well and has remained very humble and thankful for such an opportunity.”
What merely started as cute dog pictures with ratings has turned into a full-on business. Nelson now runs the social media empire full-time along with a shop featuring merchandise based on catchphrases and notable moments from the Twitter account that brings in a sizable income. He has expanded from simply animal memes into an interactive experience filled with clever captions that brighten up the sometimes-overwhelming commotion of one’s Twitter feed. We Rate Dogs gets a 14/10 and followers (and future followers) look forward to what is to come.