Don’t Be a Troll – Part 2
|January 27, 2020||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
Think back to your last interaction in the horse world, whether that was a facebook group, show, ride, or barn evening. It doesn’t count if it was just you and a friend of besties. Nope, this is you, showing up and doing your thing at any average horsey thing. “I just trying to help!” “All you need to do is…” “You should try…” “I know exactly what you need to try.”
The din of well-meaning advice of key board warriors, rail birds, and that random person that’s always at every event is so loud it has drowned out the small voices like Mugwumps and Anna Blake that are trying to say something really important. Let me sum it up for you. The horse world has a troll problem.
I guarantee you have been trolled if you are a horse person.
- Have you ever posted a picture of you riding and had someone comment on your riding position uninvited? Alternatively, have you resisted sharing a picture you really loved because you already knew your riding position was less than ideal and you didn’t want to explain/apologize when it wasn’t the point of the post?
- Have you ever been lectured about wearing a helmet by a perfect stranger after posting a picture?
- Have you ever been working on trailer loading and had someone randomly show up to your personal trailer loading party to show you how it’s done?
- Have you posted a ride story and gotten unwanted advice?
- Have you received personal attacks when discussing an issue in the equine industry or your organization?
I find it really hard to be in the horse world. It’s exhausting and less fun as time goes on. I find myself building higher and higher walls, participating less in the social groups, and avoiding anything that might trigger an onslaught of well-meaning, but mostly unhelpful advice.
I’ll be honest. Anna Blake and Mugwumps did such a great job on their posts, I barely know what else to say.
So instead of waxing on about how it’s not that fun to be trolled, and how you really don’t want to be a troll, I want you to imagine this: Imagine your favorite horse-related forum or facebook group without the should’s and unasked for advice.
Once everyone stops telling everyone else what to do, and we stop should’ing all over everyone, what else is there to say?
It just got scary quiet here in the horse world with all those things gone.
But in fact, there’s a lot to say still.
How do I know? Because I belong to other sports where there is an opportunity to be a troll, but it makes up a far smaller portion of the commentary. More encouragement, less judgement. Genuine pleasure at others successes, and true empathy when it all goes down the toilet.
In the horse world I’ve noticed we stand behind an armor of justification. You’ll get killed! You’ll get some one else killed! The horse is suffering! It is imperative that *someone* says something.
I would encourage you to step back and take a deep breath. Probably no one is dying at this very moment. And if they are, calling 911 and grabbing a lead rope is probably your best bet. Otherwise, there is ALWAYS time for a deep breath and some thoughtfulness.
Now, let’s consider…
Is there an actual question being asked? <– notice the use of a question mark. When someone is speaking, their voice often goes “up” at the end of a sentence that contains a question mark.
Is this merely a clash of values?
Have you taken the time to observe what is happening? I **love** it when people watch me doing something with my horses and assume my goal is X and then hurry to tell me exactly how I should teach that…when actually X is merely a byproduct and I’m trying to reward A on my way to B. Do you actually know what is going on?
Have you offered help? (and then respected the answer?) The best part is when you are being deliberate and slow in teaching something and someone “helps” without asking and completely muddles the situation and escalates it rapidly. That’s the best.
Can you be kind and be neither defensive nor judgmental? If not, then scroll or walk on by.
For those of you that feel the need to comment on every helmet-less photo you see….Are you that person’s friend, or are you the owner of the property where it is potentially a liability? If not, keep your mouth shut. When was the last time you put on your seat belt because someone flagged you down in a parking lot and told you to? Trust me, everyone has heard of helmets. Everyone knows it’s a good idea. I guarantee you that a perfect stranger coming up to the helmet-less rider and saying “you know you should wear a helmet” will NOT result in an epiphany…..”OH YOU ARE RIGHT.” It just won’t. Of course there are ways to bring up helmets and not be a troll. But 99% of “why aren’t you wearing a helmet in this picture” comments are not appropriate.
This isn’t to say that you can’t give advice. You can! It’s one of the wonderful things about being part of a larger community. You can lean on others as needed and get the support you need, and then help others learn lessons less painfully than you did. The important thing about advice is timing and audience. You nail those and you’ve become someone’s angel and not their troll.
If we take away the unasked for advice and the should’s, then what is left in the horse forums and groups?
- Thoughtful, kind, timely advice for those that ask
- Rejoicing in the progress, even in the absence of perfection
- Pictures that are shared without apologies
- A sharing of stories and experiences without making judgements and assumptions about others
- Vulnerability that is rewarded with empathy
It’s really difficult to build that community when we insist on trolling each other. Can we stop doing that now? Can we stop engaging and encouraging the trolls? Building strawman arguments?
Ultra running and other endurance sports are experiencing a boom that endurance riding is not. Why? I think some of the answers might be in the words of Mugwumps and Anna Blake. Even if it’s not, it’s going to be a lot more fun if we stop looking for excuses to show we are “more than” others in our community and instead build a camaraderie through shared experiences and goals.