This blog has become a space for me to occasionally vent and, I’m not gonna lie, I kinda love it. Between bursts of nutrition advice, I like the opportunity to review, sort, and categorize my stream of consciousness as I go through the business of a horse business. It’s very much similar to why I stack the dishes in a hyper-organized way before washing them. My husband makes fun of me for the way that I separate dirty dishes into kitchenware types, consolidate them into piles, and then wait. Somehow the work of organizing those dishes makes the initiation of actually washing them seem more approachable. Writing is like that- it’s cleansing.
Today, I am going to vent a little about a raw experience on social media- Facebook. I can now sadly say that I have been caught up and carried away by a tantalizingly terrible battle of wills on Facebook. When I was going through it, it was heady. The thread of comments that piled up behind my post made my heartbeat quicken and my thoughts to be flooded. It was a 12 hour adrenaline rush, and I’ve been thinking about the the emotions that spilled from that rush ever since.
So, what happened? I was aggressively chastised for selling access to a YouTube video about horse health rather than make the video public. Is there anything wrong or unlawful with this? God, no! I can do whatever I want with my business property, but some people thought it was appropriate to call me a horrible person for keeping this video from them. I want to be very clear that I am not apologizing for trying to run a business and sell education, but I am curious why selling equine nutrition and health information access is considered taboo. I think there are three reasons.
Free Nutrition & Health Advice?
First off, I’d like to explore the cultural norm of free equine nutrition and health advice and our acceptance of the inherent bias. I’ve worked in the equine nutrition industry for my entire career- nearly 15 years- and in that time span, I can count on one hand, the number of independent equine nutritionists with graduate degrees in nutrition that do not represent and work for a feed, forage or supplement company. There's a reason that there are so few of us, and I think a big one is the ubiquity of free advice. MOST nutrition and health advice comes from our veterinarians (no you don't pay them to ask about nutrition), farriers, feed store employees, trainers, and friends. The MAJOR place we get free advice is from feed and supplement companies that want to sell us stuff- representatives, constant marketing ads and Dr. Google.
So, for some, it comes at an affront that one should have to PAY for such advice without regard for source bias. At the same time spending hundreds of not thousands of dollars a year on clinics, horse shows, body work and supplements we aren’t sure really work. Feed and supplement companies tell us what we WANT to believe- that 1-2 scoops of this or that will change your horse's life. Ok, that could be true for a few horses sometimes, but not all horses all the time. Veterinarians and farriers don't study nutrition every day of the week. Feed store employees are often short term and educated by feed/supplement companies. Most nutrition and health advice comes from people with relatively small nutrition tool boxes. My favorite saying is, "when all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails." You get what you pay or don't pay for, but this is the norm and we accept that norm. I believe that the cultural acceptance of free, but biased nutrition and health advice gave people the illusion that they "deserved" access to my video.
Are Women Allowed to Get Rich?
Ironically, I had just listened to a podcast called “Ask Unladylike: Money Therapy” where the hosts interview a financial advisor named Helen Ngo.[ CLICK HERE for episode link.] Mrs. Ngo specializes in women clients, and she had some interesting insights to share about women's relationship to money versus men. One thing that stuck out for me was a cultural phenomenon of distain for women who want to be financially successful. Women have a tendency to consider the social outcomes of financial decisions. In general, we don't like to talk about getting rich! You're probably uncomfortable reading about this idea right now. I'm obviously NOT going to get rich in the business of selling equine nutrition education (something I haven’t mentioned yet is that the proceeds from this event went to LSU not me at all!), but the idea is interesting! Was this a tiny fraction of the insults thrown at me on social media?
Loss Aversion is Powerful
At the end of the day, I think the psychology can be boiled down to loss aversion. Sociologists and economics understand the power of loss aversion- a phenomenon where a real or potential loss is perceived by individuals as psychologically or emotionally more severe than an equivalent gain. In my situation people were asked to pay $15 BEFORE the live event for access to high quality education = a gain. Some people took advantage of this and some chose not to. After the event, a recording was inappropriately shared on social media. I put the kibosh on the free sharing and people went mad = a loss! They were soooo upset by something they choose NOT to participate in and didn't know they had access to for 24 hours. This is a perfect example of pain felt when we realize we lost something we never had in the first place!
Oh Facebook. I love to hate it, and I also I feel like my business can’t live without it. According to my phone, I think that I must spend about 3-4 hours per day on it all combined; scrolling, searching, commenting, and connecting. What I did wrong in this situation was spend too much time on Facebook! Have I learned a valuable lesson? YES- keep doing what you're doing and do not be ashamed of your success. High quality equine nutrition information from unbiased sources is very, VERY useful to horse owners including myself and it's worth paying for.