I had to ban three people from my social media accounts last week. This is a big deal to me since I very rarely ban someone; I think this is a new record for the amount of people I’ve banned in one week.
In the four and a half years I’ve been blogging and doing social media as a career, I have banned only 60 people. Considering I have over 100,000 followers across my platforms and reach approximately 2 million people per month, you can tell the amount of people I silence is extremely small. It’s something I really pride myself on, as the people who are the most misinformed really are my target audience when it comes to helping them understand modern agriculture. And when I do ban someone, obviously it bothers me enough to write an article about it.
There’s a pretty big difference between banning the occasional troll, extreme animal rights activist, or “negative Nancy,” if you will. On the contrary, some people have an agenda and purposely ban tens of thousands of people for their own personal gain as a charlatan or for-profit fearmongering.
A good example of this is the Food Babe. If you check out the Facebook group, Banned by Food Babe, you’ll find nearly ten thousand people who have been silenced as she profits off of spreading misinformation. I was banned for very politely explaining that we grow GMOs on our farm and NO, our cornfields are not drenched in toxic chemicals as she’d like people to believe. Fear sells, and she uses this fear to the average person to sell her affiliate products where she makes a lot of money. Other people were banned for asking about her credentials or trying to explain the science behind the food we eat.
Just for fun, check out the long-running hashtag #VisitAFarmFoodBabe on Twitter to see just how many farmers have tried to invite her on to their farms so she can learn more. She refuses to go, despite the fact many of these farms offered to sponsor her travel costs. She won’t allow herself to learn from experts in their fields (literally) which shows she’s not interested in presenting truth.
— Jake Stoltzfus (@JakeStoltzfus) February 12, 2015
For me, I jump at any opportunity to connect with my fellow farming brothers and sisters! It’s one of the reasons I started my page as the Farm Babe, to correct misinformation and be a real trusted voice for our industry. Fun fact: someone once tried to start a Banned by Farm Babe club on Twitter and then got upset when he realized he was the only member. Ha! He was a very rude person, and sometimes you do have to ban the occasional person who’s just downright vile.
So, yes, there’s a big difference between silencing thousands of experts while creating a profitable echo chamber, and needing a break from the occasional person who is full of consistent negativity or personal attacks.
It’s pretty well known that the Mayo Clinic is one of the world’s most reputable sources when it comes to information in the medical field. One time I read an article from them that had shared a bit of misinformation when it came to cattle ranching. I commented to Mayo that I was a cattle farmer and very politely corrected them by citing credible peer-reviewed sources, and do you think they banned me? Of course not! They looked into it further, made a public edit to the article, and thanked me for bringing it to their attention. We all make mistakes, including Food Babe, myself, or Mayo Clinic. It’s how you fix those mistakes that shows your character and integrity, and I’ll continue to trust and respect Mayo Clinic.
I sometimes get asked about this topic (dealing with difficult people) during the Q&A on my speaking engagements. People online can be quite rude at times, and some don’t know how we in social media can deal with it. Believe me, there are days I want to bang my head against the wall, but a vast majority of people aren’t too difficult — you just have to have empathy, patience, thick skin, and let a lot roll off your back. And dealing with rude people, well, it gets easier with time. A lot of your followers come to the rescue as well.
If you’re involved in social media as a career choice or thinking about getting involved, I would strongly encourage you to do it! There’s never been a better time to advocate for agriculture and you should always try to do your best not to silence people and always speak the truth. However, there comes a time though when banning is an important tool for your happiness and sanity and there’s nothing wrong with doing it once in a great while. You wouldn’t deal with someone walking into your house and verbally abusing you or putting you down … you wouldn’t deal with someone in your life who’s constantly negative. Don’t deal with it online either.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based farmer, public speaker, and writer, who lives and works with her boyfriend on their farm, which consists of row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.