Well, this is discouraging.
I find myself snuggled up in the top right corner of that chart. No wonder nobody likes me.
But there are some words of hope.
Ecologist and self-proclaimed spider ambassador Bria Marty tested whether learning about spiders can change how people feel about them for her master’s thesis project at Texas State University in San Marcos. She recruited college students to find and identify spiders using an illustrated guide and then upload photos to iNaturalist. Marty, currently a PhD student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, surveyed participants before and after the activity, and one thing jumped out: Afterwards, people reported being far less likely to react negatively to a spider. “Doing an activity like this really does help a lot around fear,” she says.
This kind of change has been known to happen to iNaturalist users, says Tony Iwane, the platform’s outreach and support coordinator and a self-described spider lover. He pointed me to a thread on the site’s discussion forum about how contributing to iNaturalist helped people overcome their fear of spiders, with users sharing the “gateway spider” species that changed how they felt. For @mira_l_b, it was the particularly tiny Salticid (jumping spider) species Talavera minuta. “If I am finding myself confronting life-long fears and cooing sweetly to tiny Salticidae,” she wrote, “then there’s hope for us all!”
The author is advocating a big spider counting exercise for everyone, which sounds like a good idea to me. Except this is not the best time of year for it — spiders are making themselves scarce right now, hiding from the winter onslaught, but you can still find lots of spiders in your houses.
So go find them and say hello!