As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, a caption caught my attention: I Lied About Selling Non-Local Produce at a Farmers Market. Curious, I clicked on the link and read through the whole confession of a young man who realized he was selling non-local produce at a farm which claimed they were local. They even sold CSA baskets with vegetables from around the country and from abroad.
It shocked me to think I couldn’t necessarily trust what I thought was supposed to be trustworthy. The questions started popping into my head: So are ALL farmers markets full of hidden food sources? Do I have to ask every person where every vegetable has been produced? Can I even trust what they tell me? Is the world DOOMED TO CORRUPTION?!
Now, some may say it is taking this article a little far, and you would be right in thinking so. However, it has led me to realize that I could have taken this article and shared it around with the main message being that we can never trust where our food comes from. I could have taken this information and chosen to buy cheap No Name food from now on, throwing my “shop local” values out the window, and at the same time, saving tons of money. One article with the power to make me doubt what I took as basic truth. One article that has the potential to tarnish the reputation of farmers markets.
Isn’t that one of the power of social media? To communicate information, the good and the bad, with something new being posted regularly online to make us think. Then, it is our responsibility to do what we want with it, choose to believe it or not, research the subject more or take it as it is.
I chose to keep my faith in farmers markets, even though the farmer in the article said that “everyone else does it too to keep in business”. I decided to research the power of titles, one funny post showing how removing one letter can change the whole story of a title, another explaining the types of titles, how it seems a title can sink or save a TV show, and more. So many doors were opening and questions were popping into my head: How do you know your title is a good one? What if people only read your title and first paragraph and the wrong information gets out? How objective and reliable is the source?
Then, I looked up how our brain plays tricks on us to make us believe what we want. The brain article explained how we unconsciously surround ourselves with information that matches our beliefs. I believed in farmers markets and the values we attach to them: locally grown and fresh. Maybe I had clicked on the farmer’s confession because they were mentioning things that weren’t matching my thoughts and I wanted to prove to myself that mine were still right? I knew there was more to it, so I kept searching.
I found that we tend to click on media with negative titles. It seems that we have evolved into reacting quickly to any kind of threat, meaning that a disastrous news coverage will get my attention more than purring kittens because I unconsciously realize the crisis might require me to change to avoid danger. Therefore, my choice in reading the agricultural article was probably partly due to me wanting to stay safe. I thought everything about farmers market was safe and good, so seeing something saying otherwise caught my attention right away.
After spending some time on how this post affected me, I wondered on how it affected the young man who shared his story to social media. He admits confronting the farmer about him lying to his customers, but instead of exposing his boss, the man decided to quit and continue his career where his values were respected. Should he have done more? What about the people who keep buying from that CSA?
I don’t want to start another conversation, as I have already asked a lot of questions. However, all these reflections have led to me wondering what our responsibilities not just in life, but also on social media. Who can we trust online? That will be for another conversation for another day.
In short, what I choose to do with what I read on social media is, hopefully, to not blindly believe whatever I see. I now know I will most likely tend to go click on negative titles, but I hope that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing I will share with friends and family in a conversation.
(For more information on how negative social media can affect branding, click here)