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Agriculture is being baited on social media

Agriculture is being baited on social media
Are we our own worst enemy? Agriculture might be attracting more attention to the haters than they are to themselves.

I believe there are no two ways about it – we as an industry are being baited on the internet by trolls. We're falling for it hook, line and sinker every single time. We are going to have to learn to stop, look and listen then respond to only those that truly have an open mind and genuinely want to know what we have to say. I think if we do this we will find the majority of consumers are open-minded.

Related: Are Farmers Engaging with Like-minded People on Social Media?

I get defensive. I get that hot feeling inside when I read the words "factory farm." I call it passion for agriculture, but my husband says I have slight anger issues. Call it what you will, just know that I get it!

Don't be the crazy: Just because we are invited to a fight doesn't mean we have to attend. Sometimes if we just stand back the real crazies will out themselves.

At some point in the fight, onlookers and new comers to the conversation don't know who started the crazy – the image we are headed for is that we started it.

Isn't social media fun? I make it perfectly clear that I am addicted to several forms of it and while it is supposed to be an easy way to keep up with friends and catch up on happenings around the world it's also a tool to continually engage more users.

Let's take my personal Facebook page as example. I have 588 friends on Facebook.

Every time I post a status on my wall, most of them will have it on their timeline. They will be able to scroll through their feed and see what I have to say.

But did you know that every time I comment on another friends' statuses it is likely it could be seen on all 587 of my other friends' timelines as well? Now there are some privacy settings that may impede that number, but we're playing in Facebook's world. It gets to make the rules.

Now if I comment on the page of my friend (we'll call her "Cindy"), it is possible that Facebook could let all 587 of my other friends know what I said to Cindy – even if they aren't friends with her!

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Now take that one step further. Say I comment on the "I trust GMOs" page. There is a chance all 588 of my friends will see that I commented. That's good, right? Since I visited the page and commented, Facebook may show a bit of information on my friends' timeline.

I possibly just introduced 588 people to the page "I trust GMOs" – that makes me happy because I do trust GMOs.

Related: Food Dialogues: Consumers demand appropriate farm animal care

Now I hear the Facebook page "I hate GMOs" is bashing modern agriculture. My first instinct is to go the page and pounce – fill up their comment section with all the positives of modern agriculture, like climate controlled barns for hogs, benefits of using fewer chemicals on GMO crops, proper antibiotic use for livestock, and so on.

But do you know what I just inadvertently did? I introduced the "I hate GMOs" page to 588 more people.

It's possible they already knew about the page, but most likely the greater majority of them did not. Facebook saw my post and did the same thing with it as it did the "I trust GMOs" page.

If we break this down, we'll say 75% of my 588 friends are not involved in agriculture. That's 441 people who probably never heard of this page that now know about it, could possibly read it and this be their first experience with GMOs – and it's negative! Not only is it negative but those defending GMOs on their page, like me, look defensive. Consumers can't tell who started the crazy.

We are doing their work for them. We are passing all their information around, sharing it with our friends even though we are opposed to it. Now we look like we have gone to them to pick a fight.

If you want to know what's happening with those Facebook pages you "like," check back next week.

The opinions of Jennifer Campbell are not necessarily those of Indiana Prairie Farmer or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

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