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Ag attacking ag: When online words really hurt

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It’s no secret that people can really be jerks online.

I remember when I was first thinking about starting a platform on social media, this was one of my biggest concerns: What if people were mean?

Six years into being an online public figure, and I can confidently say that the “haters” or detractors are a very, very small part of it. Like, probably 98 percent of people are kind, and when someone shows up and is nasty, usually your loyal fans are there to come to your defense. (Thank you everyone! You really make my day sometimes!)

The truth is that every job has its ups and downs. Whether you’re a social media influencer, a banker, doctor, or heck — Mother Theresa — someone will find a reason not to like you. And oftentimes it comes from a place of jealousy or anger within themselves. Negativity says more about them than it does about you. And if you’re thinking about starting a social media platform, I would tell you to go for it!

The longer you’re in the social media space, the easier it becomes, too. It wasn’t always that easy, but, nowadays, if someone says something negative, you realize that they have a fake profile or they’re just trolling. These are people who have nothing better to do and, for some odd reason, really enjoy getting under your skin. Don’t let them. No one deserves to live in your head rent free.

I would say though … that maybe once a year someone says something online that particularly hurts. And when it hurts, it’s because they’re someone within your own tribe.

Look. I don’t care if you’re an anti-GMO activist, a vegan animal extremist, I’m expecting those people not to like me. And frankly, if you’re not challenging other views and ruffling a few feathers from time to time, you’re probably not making a difference.

But here’s a screenshot of something that someone said about me somewhat recently:

I mean, what sort of jerk would be against smaller-scale community farms? I certainly am not and never would be. I don’t know anyone who would be. I’ve long advocated that we need all kinds of growers moving forward: big and small. As long as a small farm being honest about what they produce, how they produce it, and how they sell it, of course they’re great!

And don’t get me wrong, this conversation was fine — it wasn’t that hurtful. But it just goes to show, be careful about what you say about who and where. The person in your community just might see it. 😉

When I think of farming, I think of it mostly on a global scale, and yes, I do tend to personally feel that “big ag” is just interesting! I like learning and sharing, but also from small-scale farmers.

There was one other time where someone accused me of stealing their photo — which is something I would never intentionally do or encourage. This happened last fall when a friend messaged me a harvest photo that he said he got from a neighbor. Everything seemed innocent enough and was just a part of the sharing of our daily lives that so often happened in my community. And, because photos and memes are shared on social media every day, I didn’t think much about it. The image didn’t have a watermark or other logo, so it seemed as if it was forwarded to me with the intent that my large social media following could share in it.

It wasn’t long, though that someone on Twitter asked me where I got the photo, to which I responded that it came from a neighbor. Which was true. However, little did I know that it was not the neighbor’s actual photo. Again …. memes and other images travel fast on social media. So come to find out, the photo actually originally came from the guy who inquired on Twitter.

He then accused me of purposely stealing his photo. Oh my gosh, I would NEVER do that!! I take stuff like that very seriously! Rather than sending me a private message directly, he proceeded to put me on blast all over social media.

It. Was. AWFUL.

I sometimes go days without checking my social accounts, I don’t always read my comment section, especially if I get too busy I sometimes just don’t have the time to be involved on Twitter.

This was one of those times.

When I opened my social media a day or two later, I awoke to a storm of hatred towards me from my own industry. From other farmers? Woah … that hurt. I cried. I cried and cried and didn’t sleep at all that night since it bothered me so much. I work really hard to promote farmers of all shapes and sizes and to maintain industry respect. It was a little misunderstanding where a private message could’ve avoided all of this.

Look, I expect to experience trolls and haters from the fringes who speak out against farming. It’s just expected considering the fact that I promote science and facts within agriculture for a living. But when I experience it from my own people, that’s when it became really hurtful. I sent the owner of the original photo a private message with a sincere apology and took down the post. I honestly would never intentionally take someone’s work, nor did I ever try to write it off as my own. I just wanted to share a cool picture to make my audience smile!

This gets a whole lot easier if there’s a watermark or a credit on an image — certainly it simplifies how to connect with the owner of the content and to have a better sense of how that image or whatnot can reasonably be used. I didn’t, and never do, intend to misuse or appropriate another work outside of its purpose, and people are too quick to jump the gun and hate on someone who does that. Myself and my editor here at AGDAILY have spent countless hours reaching out to bloggers and other news outlets who have taken full Farm Babe articles (or nearly full articles) and reused them without permission — and often without credit to me or to the website. And I know first-hand that a soft approach works better than a heavy hand in these instances, especially when you can tell pretty quickly that there was no malice or harm intended and that it was likely a simple misunderstanding.

Yet what bothered me the most in the Twitter incident was that people within my own industry accused me of doing something without hearing my side of the story. Many people did come to my defense who know and understand my integrity, however. People should never make assumptions and give others the opportunity to explain what really happened and offer a level of open communication, questioning, and understanding.

After this post happened, an agricultural podcaster put me on blast where she also claimed I stole her picture and used it on an article I wrote here on AGDAILY. I fact-checked her, and she was right in saying I used the photo in question; however, she was wrong to insinuate that I stole it from her. Why? I will always give credit where credit is due, and the watermark on the photo came from someone else, and that’s who got the credit! Her anger was being incorrectly directed at me and not at that other person who had co-opted ownership of the image and had bestowed credit to themselves.

That wasn’t a cut-and-dried situation, and it was a difficult and unusual spot to be in. I worked to get the photo credit updated, and the photo was replaced with her original and she was given credit.

How easy was that? Communication is important, and rather than being mean toward me on a podcast, she could’ve sent me a message, and we happily could’ve corrected it to where she never would’ve had to expend unnecessary negative energy. Accidents happen, let’s politely fix them.

Ag attacking ag is rarely a good idea. Farmers have enough day-to-day stresses to deal with from breakdowns, market prices, weather, and uninformed activists. Let’s always remember that farmers are generally salt of the earth people with good intentions. Give our own community the respect they deserve and the opportunity to communicate their side of the story and support our own community. In the words of Michele Payne, “No more food fights!”

 

Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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Any views or opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect those of AGDAILY. Comments on this article reflect the sole opinions of their writers.