I’m just going to say it, we have to stop playing the victim. Do I love agriculture? Yes. Do I lose my temper when someone makes a disparaging comment? Yes.
When a video of a certain Democratic presidential candidate recently circulated showing him calling farming “simple,” did I want to publicly call him a buttface? Of course, I did. But did I? No, I didn’t. Because it wasn’t actually that big of a deal.
I am not endorsing or defending the candidate’s comments, but if you watched more than the two-minute video clip that was circulating throughout ag social media, it was pretty easy to see that comments were being taken out of context. But, instead of investigating further, we freaked out.
We bashed the candidate and made fun of his sheltered upbringing. We insulted his intelligence and diminished his life experiences. Instead of focusing on showing people that farming is not simple and positively reinforcing what we do, we chose to sling mud just like politicians. It was the wrong move.
Think about all the consumers out there watching. To them, if they even watched the video that we so willingly shared thousands of times, it was two sentences out of an hour-long video that didn’t seem like that big of a deal. Until we made it one. Instead of mentioning it once, making them think, “Huh, yeah, maybe that wasn’t such a good comment,” and moving on; we attacked. We grabbed our pitchforks and torches and went a little crazy. By the end of the day, I was audibly humming the “Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast because that’s what it felt like. A faceless mob, with little information, going after any slightly unflattering comment that shows up on Twitter. By letting our emotions run wild, we may have unknowingly closed a lot of doors.
Doors to actual, legitimate questions about agriculture. Questions from young moms who worry that milk isn’t good for their toddlers. Questions from animal lovers who worry about how we take care of our cows. Questions from younger generations about how we’re working to improve the environment, so they know it’ll be around for them to enjoy for years to come. Because who would feel comfortable asking a fanatical, combative group of people a question that you’re already a little self-conscious about?
My social media strategy has always been the same: read, react, take a breath to think, and then respond. Some days it really is just a breath; some days it takes me 24 hours to breathe, but I’ve never regretted it.
So, the next time something on the internet really ticks you off, take a breath, then respond with kindness. When my brother is super mad at me, nothing infuriates him more than me smiling, politely, back.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.