I tried for years to avoid social media. I was concerned about the amount of time Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram would eat into my already overcrowded schedule. Then one day I wanted to communicate easily with my brother in the States, so Facebook became my method of choice. I then branched out to Twitter as it was the platform that my husband was using. Over time (we are talking years now) and several marketing conventions, I finally broke and set up both a YouTube channel and an Instagram account. All of my sites have 1 thing in common: Horses.
I’m not alone in my obsession…uh, work. All the social media platforms are filled with animals. Humans love their animals. Dogs and cats have the lion’s share (pardon the pun) with dogs filling a whopping 44% of the animals on Instagram and cats racing in at 36% [source: reddit via google big search]. Horses come in at 18%. Now that might not sound like much but if you consider that only 3.5 million people in the UK own horses and in the neighbourhood of 50 million world wide, it is clear that we love photographing our “babies”.
I do use my accounts for showing what we are doing at Sunshine. It is much easier to show a picture of a young lady jumping safely and successfully that to discuss it. Also the photos provide a way of showing the development in a rider. Last year’s 50cm rider is now this year’s 85cm rider. It also shows off the quality of the horses I have. I want to be able to show the world how much we love our horses and this is the easiest way. It also gives prospective customers a clearer idea of what to expect when the come to my yard. Yes, all the bunf the marketing gurus said – okay, they were right and I was wrong to fight it so long!
And it is very big but…. There are people who live their lives in such a way as to make your life difficult. These people are called Trolls.
I am happy to admit or agree to the principal that everyone has their own opinion. Freedom of speech and thought is very important to me. I don’t mind a robust exchange of ideas so long as the information presented is factual, relevant and not intentionally degrading. I do not know all there is to know about horses in spite of being involved with them for 50 years. I am still learning. I spend much of my free time learning new ideas and techniques in care, training and nutrition. Yes, I take this all very seriously because they, my horses, depend on me not to screw up. If someone has a new idea or technique, I will happily look it over and judge it on merit and against my experience. If it is good, then I will use it. If not, then it is quietly discarded.
Trolls don’t work this way. They want to hurt you.
My first real experience with Trolls when when I posted some pictures of one of my horses who had been abused in a field when I wasn’t there. She had cigarette burns to her face and corners of her eyes. She had been kicked and beaten. I had the Vet out and after months of treatment, I am happy to say she is physically fine. Mentally and emotionally, she has never been the same. My purpose was to let local owners know there was psychopath in the area and to keep any eye on their horses.
It did not take long for the Trolls to appear. I was first told that the burns were due to headcollar rubbing (on the corners of the eyes?). I was told I was shit because I didn’t watch over my horse. I was told that my Vet was crap and didn’t know what she was looking at. I needed to get a new Vet. I was made to feel I should not have a horse, much less a riding school. It was all so very painful and for what reason? It was not to help those in the area who could be at risk. It was not to help the police investiagation (which was successful!) It was not to offer aid, support or help to either the horse or me. It was to hurt someone and make themselves feel better. How very sad.
I do worry when I have posted pictures on the various platforms. I worry when our riders do it. I am big and mean and confident and can deal with Trolls. I really don’t want them to have to. I have seen posts of less than photographically perfect jumps and moves. Why would someone post that? Because they were proud of what they did. They had been able to do something they had never done before. On the odd occasion, they post it to say, “please don’t do this!” But by and large it is to celebrate a special moment in their life.
We don’t know these folks. We don’t their history. Is there an injury that’s been overcome? Is there an educational issue? Is there a disability issue? We don’t know and probably will never know, unless we go to meet them and talk with them. Trolls don’t care. Trolls don’t want to care.
So what do we do when we are being trolled? Ignore them. My eldest son always says, “Don’t feed the trolls. They need your emotion to survive.” He’s right. It would be great to just be able to delete their posts, but that is not always possible. The thing to remember is that trolls are quickly and easily spotted. Don’t engage as if you do, you then give them a larger platform from which to operate.
Also don’t swear at Trolls. You end up looking bad. When someone says a blind, 1 legged monkey could have jumped the fence better than you, do NOT respond by calling them a stupid ba*tch. Ignore them or thank them for their kind opinion. Taking the moral high ground is really hard, but it is the right thing to do. If you engage in a slanging match, more people will remember that you took a troll seriously and ended up looking bad, than just letting the comment die in cyberspace.
Three things to remember:
1. Pictures tell their own stories
2. People are brighter than you think
3. NEVER FEED THE TROLLS!!!
See you soon and Keep Riding!