Let’s discuss: Social Media Responsibility

A while ago, Amanda at The $900 Facebook Pony did a post that talked about whether big name riders and the like have a responsibility to wear helmets and practice good safety habits since they are paid to be an example, and as celebrities of the horse world, are inevitably demonstrating the habits of those at the top of the sport.This will be along a similar vein, but this post is not about big name riders who are asked to endorse certain products and ideas, and is instead focused around more of the “every man” if you will that may find themselves with a rather large social media following.

The other day, as I was browsing through my Instagram feed, I cam across a post by one of the larger accounts I follow. The account is held by a younger girl (somewhere in the 12-15 range perhaps) who does a lot of work at liberty with her horses. She posts more ground work than under saddle photos, but when she does post photos of herself on a horse, she’s is generally without a helmet. Because she has a very large account she of course has a wide variety of followers, some of whom feel the need to comment on her lack of safety gear, especially when she asks her horse to do tricks like rearing, or she is jumping a big log in a field.

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The post I came across asked why people felt the need to comment on whether or not she chose to wear a helmet, and that it was silly for people to say that she has to think about the people who follow her account, because they should be capable of thinking for themselves, or should have parents that moderate their safety practices.

And so I got to thinking. While I can certainly understand being frustrated that strangers feel the need to comment on your life, it also seems to me that having a large social media following does come with some responsibility. Of course, having a large Instagram account or a super popular blog is not necessarily the same as being a sponsored rider who specifically seeks to be an example that people will follow, and yet I think the results are similar. This does not just pertain to wearing helmets. The thoughts,

So the short and sweet version of my thoughts would be that I think as a large account, even if you did not “ask” for internet fame, you have a certain responsibility. As a child/teen, I did not always follow rules my parents set out for me, and I was more easily swayed by examples I saw than I am now. Whether or not it seems fair, the chance of being indirectly responsible for another person’s injury would at least make me think twice about what I share and encourage on social media accounts. This does not just pertain to wearing helmets. The thoughts, opinions, and attitude expressed on an account also set an example, and that (IMO) should be taken into account as well.

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What do you think readers? Should people just do what they want, and assume that followers either know that they shouldn’t follow the examples they see on their favorite accounts or have parents/trainers/etc that will be successful in instilling what habits they think appropriate, or should larger social media accounts be mindful of the example they set with the assumption that many of their followers are like sponges?

12 thoughts on “Let’s discuss: Social Media Responsibility

  1. This is one of those subjects that I could think about all day and not come up with a solid answer. Ultimately, I think the internet is a “jump in at your own risk” kind of place and there will always be people who refuse to accept responsibilities they’ve created for themselves (Yes, there is judgement inherent in the way I just phrased that sentence.). The thing that actually bugs me the most are the people who follow accounts simply to troll them, not so much the content of the accounts themselves. But then those comments reflect more strongly on the trolls themselves than the account holders. I am all for respectful disagreement and expressing opinions, and if you have an online presence you are inviting both, but people who are outspokenly catty and hateful annoy the hell out of me.

    1. I think this pretty nicely sums up my thoughts as well! It’s so rude to feel like you should comment and be rude, but I can understand the intent behind some of (certainly not all though!) the commenters.

  2. Whenever you put something out on the internet, you have to be aware of the repercussions. Sometimes that’s being a role model when you didn’t intent do, and sometimes that’s dealing with negativity you didn’t expect. It’s all part of it.

  3. Carly

    I think, along the lines of your specific example, that kids are so impressionable that it is fair to say that she has a responsibility to think about her followers. “But my idol does it this way, that’s the way I’m going to do it!” Social media is a weird, tricky universe to operate in.

  4. I don’t mind so much people choosing to not wear a helmet as people who are willing to spread false information about helmets. Ultimately, whether you want to wear a helmet or not is a personal choice. I think there is a “responsibility” for big accounts/big names to advocate for their followers to be as safe as possible around horses; a lot of liberty based accounts are highly adamant about their followers not trying tricks out in the absence of a knowledgeable trainer. That being said, my opinion is still just an opinion. I wear a helmet, and in the event that I don’t and decide to post a photo, there will be a disclaimer. I’ve had too many head on impacts to let others take that kind of risk.

  5. Great post! I feel that I project a fairly good image and do my best not to promote risky behaviour. That being said I don’t think that it’s my job to make sure that my followers are interpreting what I’m saying or doing in the way that I intended. Anyone that works with horses takes on risks and it’s up to them (and their parents or coaches) to protect themselves not social media. It’s really none of my business what people do with their horses… do I think that Jane/Joe Smith is stupid for standing on their horses back in shorts, bare feet and no helmet? Absolutely. Am I going to say anything directly to them? Not likely, because it’ll probably have no impact. Maybe I’m naive, but I think that the people you surround yourself with in real life have/should have more impact on you than someone you follow on social media.

  6. My opinion might be slightly unpopular. Idk really. Generally I’m a strong believer in personal responsibility. That said, while I love the small following my blog has – I don’t feel responsible to them. I am not responsible for the actions anyone who reads along might take based on what they read.

    If I were to draw a line in the sand – I think it would revolve around payment. Specifically payment for training (either of horse or rider). If you make money for teaching people to ride, your actions should reflect the type of behaviors you espouse. This holds for BNRs who teach clinics etc.

    But for the average Joe or Jane on social media who makes zero money on telling people how to ride? I don’t think they are responsible for how people ride.

    1. Hm. That’s a great point. For people who don’t get paid, it’s definitely more of a gray area, but for those who do get paid it does seem like they should be extra aware.

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