IT'S an odd phenomenon: people who are stable, happy individuals with loving relationships and solid careers in the real world can turn into some of the most pessimistic, negative and aggressive people online.
Behind their digital personas, in the comforts of their own home they feel confident enough to poke, prod and even attack with text made missiles to complete strangers.
And yet in person, I’m sure they’re not like this, especially with strangers.
We merely roll our eyes when we see this behaviour in a Twitter discussion or on a web forum but we’d never tolerate this sad and intrusive behaviour in reality. The online community calls them trolls.
Troll, noun: A person who deliberately posts to a forum or other form of online communication to disrupt or cause agitation. They generally disagree with the content, and for self amusement will attack with no substance and avoid addressing the issue.
If you have a look out over agriculture through social media, blogs and other online content you’ll see them scattered like weeds throughout a field. Like weeds, trolls don’t like competition and can smother more desirable species.
Like any pasture improvement, we encourage the good and discourage the bad. However, as with any real growth and development of great ideas, brands and concepts, constructive criticism is crucial.
The devil’s advocate angle along with intelligent discussions and comment delivered with the intent to improve, add value and fill holes shouldn’t be clouded by negativity - or even positivity.
There’s much comment claiming social media is a new voice for agriculture – a vehicle we can all share our stories through – that gives access and ability to infiltrate brands, companies and of course connect with consumers and like minds. This isn’t just a concept, it’s reality and happening yesterday.
With this in mind, what does your story look like? What are the messages we’re communicating?
Are we sending out stories that are productive and assist with the creation of ideas, concepts and discussions? That tell the story we want people to believe in around agriculture? Or are we tolerating the trolls that create a stain on the fabric of our online presence as an industry?
Look around the room, office or tractor cab and pick a well-known brand. How many times in the last five years have you seen them speak negatively of themselves, others or competitors? As an organisation, they of course deal with internal conflicts and external challenges. And whilst they build off constructive criticism, you’ll never see them volunteering online cynicism. They do what they can to present a positive, strong and united front.
My lesson in moderating the message came when I was a young account executive working with the brand manager for an American whiskey.
I was under pressure and not getting the support needed to execute a national event. Although I had much respect for my boss, I lacked the guts to have a discussion. After a few beers at home, I let the lot go into an email.
Bad move. As I crawled from his office the next day, tail between my legs, he said; “Sam, say the bad, write the good.”
I’ve not put pen to paper, or hit Ctrl S without thinking those words since.
They’ve saved me, built me and put me in some great places to negotiate. Perhaps this needs to be in the terms and conditions for when you sign up to Facebook, Twitter etc. But hold on: no-one reads them anyway...