Saturday, September 29, 2018

Goat Drama, Facebook Style

(Don't fret, Bolt was just fine. Just a unique goat)

(Fasten your seat belts, friends. Katherine has written our blog post today, and, oh boy is she on a roll!)

I have a funny story to share with you, my dedicated readers. That something is the story of the NPGA Region 2 Facebook Page - or Group - or whatever it is now, I’m not really sure. This is a somewhat rambling story and an analysis of what I observed happening on Facebook.

The original Facebook group (let’s call it Facebook Page #1) was created by the directors of the Region for the purpose of spreading important information. This page was, for the most part, agenda items, with the occasional trivia challenge mixed in. There was little to no post engagement, but the page existed and that was enough.

It came to my attention that a while ago somebody on the page began to make trouble. They harassed the admin of Facebook Page #1, claiming that the admin was responsible for issues that the agitator had with their membership renewal (something that is, I remind you, up to the NPGA member to manage. How hard is it to email the office and ask when your membership is due? Or to record it on the calendar app that every phone has now ?). I digress.

This harassment was the death knell of the original Region 2 information page (Facebook Page #1), and it was taken down. Immediately thereafter--and I mean, within minutes--a new group popped up: “Region 2 Members of the National Pygmy Goat Association.” A bit wordy of a title, but it gets the point across. Their mission? “It appears that Region 2 no longer has a Facebook page open to everyone regardless of position or stance.” This is interesting, as I know that the admin(s) of this new page was/were directly involved with the downfall of Facebook Page #1. This new page (let’s call it Facebook Page #2) is a closed group, whose purpose is to “disseminate information and discuss issues regarding the association.” Fantastic! I am a huge fan of having a safe and open environment to discuss current issues and disseminate information.

An interesting thing to note on Facebook Page #2, or R2MotNPGA (my acronym for the group), is that it is open to everyone, regardless of “stance” or “opinion.” Time will tell if their posts remain “RESPECTFUL;” Region 2 has a nasty streak a mile wide.

Enter Facebook Page # 3. “NPGA Region 2 Public Information Portal” popped up nearly a week later in response to Facebook Page # 2 (R2MotNPGA). The purpose of this newest page is to post upcoming events and information, with minimal discussion, in order to streamline the sharing of aforementioned information. A different approach, but there is no conflict with the other Region 2 group; in fact, the newest page encourages visitors to join the other group (Facebook Page #2, R2MotNPGA) to discuss current events and issues. The public information portal pinned a post to the top of its page, outlining the purpose and “rules” of posting, including this line:

this is not a page for general discussion unless otherwise mentioned.”

This line is promptly followed by a list of what the page is actually for (unbiased sharing of information), and why it exists outside of the other Facebook Page #2(R2MotNPGA).

Less than an hour later, Facebook Page #2 (R2MotNPGA) responded to the creation of Facebook Page #3 (NPGAR2PIP). (Wow, these acronyms are getting out of hand...). It is my belief that the admin of Facebook Page #2 (R2MotNPGA) did not fully read the post of NPGAR2PIP (Facebook Page #3), as they posted this:

“UPDATE: FYI...Very recently an unidentified admin has opened a NPGA Region 2 Public Information Portal. So there is another page for members to view only as it has limitations. No discussion is allowed.”

Now, I’m a teenager, and I love drama as much as the next kid, so I watched with rapt interest as this spectacle unfolded. Is the “no discussion is allowed” supposed to be an insult? If so, does the admin of Facebook Page #2 not understand the concept of a “public information portal”? Or maybe it’s a compliment? An acknowledgment of the fact that the information portal (Facebook #3) establishes the group’s role as an open forum? It’s unclear. I will say, though, one thing is for certain: the tone of the update is not enthusiastic about this new Facebook Page #3.

I stayed out of it, but I did turn on notifications for both the group and the page. This proved to be entertaining.

Facebook Page #3 (NPGAR2PIP) quickly responded by adding the following statement to their welcome blurb:

This group is to make important information easily accessible without inciting bullying or harassment. Visitors are invited to make posts and comments that follow the guidelines below…”

Which made it very clear that, A) the page admin had read Facebook Page #2’s “UPDATE: FYI...,” and that B) they felt the urge to clarify the purpose of an information portal. It’s also key to note Facebook Page #3’s “bullying and harassment” statement, because I’m not totally convinced that this mere proclamation will actually prevent bullying OR harassment...

In fact, it’s very clear that Facebook page #2’s comment invited bullying and harassment. The admin of Facebook Page #3 (R2MotNPGA) made their intentions towards the new page quite clear: openly hostile and unwelcoming, in direct opposition with the supposed purpose of the group. It’s also important to note at this point that the creator of the Facebook page #3 was anonymous, whereas the admin of the Facebook page #3 was not. All I’m going to say is that some people like attention while others actually believe in sharing information.

As a third-party observer, I have some interesting comments on this whole situation (which is still playing out, for those interested in following it).

1. I personally hate Facebook groups where important information is shuffled to the bottom because of lengthy discussion. If I need to find out, say, who is judging a show, I want to see the post with those details, rather than having to scroll through pages of comments.

2. That said, discussion is important to creating a healthy and productive environment.

3. Why do the adults of Region 2 feel the urge to engage in these... pissing matches?

4. Everything that the leaders of Region 2 are doing is under a microscope. Every detail--every Facebook post --is being watched by families, breeders, enthusiasts, and, yes, even the youth. How they are behaving is being watched closely.

5. Grammatical errors bother me, as does a lack of clear writing. (I apologize in advance if this blog post has been confusing and/or difficult to read.) I’m still struggling to understand the meaning of the line: “So there is another page for members to view only as it has limitations.”

What does that mean? Yes, there is another page for members to view. Is it “limited” because members can only view it? (which is not true). Or should the sentence be interpreted as “another page for members to view-only, as it has limitations”? (which is also not true, even with the added punctuation). Is the easy access to public information considered a “limitation”?

And the following line: “No discussion is allowed.” Does this imply that no discussion is allowed within the group (Facebook Page #2 group that is) regarding this new page? Or is the statement implying that discussion is not allowed on the new page (Facebook #3)? (Which is, once again, not true; and the admin who posted to the Facebook Page #2 group evidently did not read the purpose and goals of the Public Information Portal—Facebook #3). It’s enough to make my head spin, because no matter how you look at it, this is one admin slandering an anonymous, seemingly-well-meaning page, and trying to deflect attention back onto... themselves.
This whole Facebook thing is important to me, deeply important, because Region 2 has been anything but a healthy and safe environment for me, and an honest, open forum has so much potential for clearing issues. I keep asking myself: is this new group, Facebook Page #2, really open for ME to join in the discussion? After the way I was treated in person and online by the creators of the group, am I truly “welcome”? After the public ridicule and shaming, the bad mouthing, back-stabbing, and trash-talking I have endured--AS A YOUTH--should I even try to speak up now?

Here we go again. What message are these adults spreading to the youth and families who are interested in pygmy goats (and not in drama)? They are saying that as long as they get what they want, no one else’s opinion matters.

I think a lot about a particular experience I had a couple of months ago at a show. I brought two of my yearling bottle baby girls to support the club hosting the show, even though one goat’s stifle (read: knee) had gone (read: popped out) months ago, and the other doe had an atrocious rear end (read: ugly). They’re my pets, my babies, and I wanted to support the club by helping them make sanction and money. While I was in the ring showing my goat, I watched a member (and NPGA-licensed judge!) of Region 2 smirk and turn to his companion, making a blatant I’m-blocking-my-mouth-so-you-can’t-hear me-talk-shit gesture. I immediately knew what the sniggering was about; so, after the class ended I offered to let the companion (who was learning about goat structure) feel the goat’s faults. The licensed judge turned to me, and snidely said (with no invitation): “You don’t need to feel them to see the faults. I would get rid of those goats. They aren’t good for breeding or showing.”

Taken aback, I responded: “They’re my pets. It doesn’t matter if they win, or if I never breed them. I’m here to support the club.”
To which he responded with something along the lines of: “Right, you can afford to keep them.”

This snarky statement triggered a lot of red flags in my mind: unsolicited judging, for starters. I hadn’t asked him to evaluate my animals; I was talking to his companion. Then, the comment about what I could “afford.” Was it any of his business to make a jab at my personal life or financial situation? To try to make me feel bad about being able to afford to keep pets? Is it a bad thing that I keep around pet-quality animals because I love them?
I apologize for going off on that tangent. It bothers me, just like the “there is another page for members to view only as it has limitations” issue. Honestly, I think a simple comma could’ve made that sentence clear and elegant.

Facebook Page #2 is not there for the “little guys,” regardless of what they may say. I’ve been “the little guy” and I watched these adults enter their goats into the youth shows solely to win and to pick up that precious one-third of a grand that they desperately wanted. I’ve watched adult-owned wethers win a youth show and, when the time came to sign the championship paperwork, the adults signed with a flourish and loudly declared, “It doesn’t matter, the goat doesn’t have to be youth-owned!” What? It’s a youth show. I’ve watched these breeders and judges give and receive grand championships to their friends and fellow judges when another goat clearly deserved it. On the one occasion when I spoke up at a meeting, I was mocked, belittled and marginalized. I never felt welcome to participate in a meeting again.

So, what does this drama mean for NPGA? How can NPGA ever expect to retain youth if their adults behave this way? The change of directors on the board (what could be cited as the source for this recent Facebook pissing match) will most likely mean absolutely nothing for the overall direction of the organization. This problem isn’t exclusively in Region 2, either, and vain adults have a way of ignoring the real issues and generating their own self-serving agendas. Everybody wants to feel important; even I want to feel important, which I why I’m writing this blog post.

If you are an NPGA member, a breeder, a judge, or even an enthusiast, ask yourself this: how many people have you introduced to pygmy goats? How many of those people have remained involved? How many times have you said something mean or rude about somebody - behind their back or to their face? And how many times have you first ignored and then made fun of the family and the youth, with their handful of goats, that desperately need somebody to help them get started?

I know the answer to these questions for a lot of the adults in Region 2. I know how they’ve pushed away the youth in the Region; I’ve heard them mock youth breeders and exhibitors, making fun of their goats, their families, and their backgrounds. I’ve watched them turn on each other like a pack of dogs, being two-faced and cruel to their “friends.” I’ve watched quietly for a long, long time, and I’m sick of watching quietly.

I’m going to go out and make a change in my Region; at least, I’m going to try. And I’m going to try to make a change in NPGA, because I don’t want other youth and families to be pushed out of something they love by self-absorbed adults.

Just try to be nice, OK?

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