I really believe that the internet and social media are a great thing. I love that I can connect with like minded horse lovers all around the world so easily. I love sharing my horses with photos and stories, so that other people can enjoy them in some small way. I love that I can learn new things without having to leave my own little corner of the world.
But probably my least favourite thing about horse related social media is the unsolicited advice.
In my Facebook memories recently I’ve been reminded that three years ago Vodka was struggling with a melting corneal ulcer. I shared his journey along the way, as I do most everything with my horses, both because I know there are people out there who care about him, and because I thought it would be educational to share how seriously eye issues need to be treated.
It was, I thought, very clear that we were doing everything possible. I talked about his many vet appointments, seeing the ophthalmologist multiple times, that I was treating the eye every hour on the hour. I never once asked for any suggestions – I was following every instruction from his team of veterinary professionals who were seeing him every three days. We were doing everything possible.
And yet, the advice kept rolling in. Some good, some crazy, but all of it well meant – which is what’s so frustrating about it. I was sleep deprived, worried and trying to get anything else done in the 45 minute spaces I had between treatments. I was doing everything that could possibly be done for him, and yet every time I’d post an update there would be a list of “helpful suggestions” that I couldn’t even legitimately get mad about because the posters had good intentions behind their unsolicited advice.
I finally just stopped giving updates. In my worried, sleep deprived state I couldn’t deal with being told to try *insert random bonkers homeopathic remedy here*, or asked if we were giving a medication that worked on someone’s horse once for their runny eye, or to try a different vet clinic because …. well, I don’t even know why! Even the most well meant of suggestions only feels like judgement and criticism when you’re already doing everything.
Vodka’s eye got better. While the ophthalmologist was skeptical at first that it would heal without surgery, with diligent treatment – as prescribed by veterinary professionals, not Facebook – it healed.
But my willingness to share the details of veterinary issues on Facebook never fully recovered.
And this phenomenon isn’t limited to veterinary issues. Unsolicited advice is endemic in social media, whether from those who legitimately would like to help, or those who just want to show off their knowledge and feel like a big shot.
Here’s the thing:
If someone doesn’t specifically ASK for advice, they don’t want to hear it.
(And if someone is asking for medical advice, then definitely make your first advice “call a veterinarian”)
While a lot of Horse Related Facebooking is done in advice groups, that doesn’t mean the whole platform is a free for all on informing everyone else what they could or should be doing better. If you give advice that wasn’t specifically asked for, it’s very unlikely to be heeded anyway. People are only ready to learn when they go looking for knowledge.
No one wants random advice when they’re just trying to share their horse or their journey.
Save your advice for those who are asking for it, and everyone will be much happier for it.