Your Opinion Is Not A Fact

Some might call what I’m about to write an ‘open letter’ but for me this is just something I feel that needs to be said for myself.

I have written about my love/hate relationship with social media, and Facebook in particular, before. I have written about how it can be useful tool…but also how it can be used destructively. In the past 72 hours I have been on the receiving end of the destructive nature that occurs when people are not face-to-face.

Up until a couple of days ago I was a member of several “Closed” groups on Facebook – these are groups where you can usually see who is a member but the actual content of the group (posts etc.) is not accessible unless you are a member. One group I have been an on/off member of for several years. There have been times I have left after seeing some behaviours that I personally did not like.

Most recently I had noticed the vibe of this group (its purpose is for persons who use a specific online marketplace to come together) going in directions I wasn’t happy with. I watched as a “mob-mentality” began to grow…

Oh, look what this person wrote on Twitter!

A series of replies on the thread (eg. “How dare they…”-style comments) and the person on Twitter was flooded with comments (on that thread there were some however who were level-headed enough to be honest regarding the initial Tweet). I observed at least one member leave the group after they voiced support for the Tweeter due to the replies on the thread.

You’re Racist If You Don’t Say Something

And then there was a post in the group regarding the protests and subsequent death in Charlottesville, Virginia – yes, a tragedy that did not need to occur.

The thread began as a call to post on social media platforms against racism. I didn't have any issue with people wanting to express their views against racism at all but I do feel how people go about that is their own personal choice. Some people use loud voices, other people use soft voices, but I would never criticise someone else for how they approach, deal and express themselves on such a topic.

At a point though the tone changed after several members had said they didn’t feel posting memes/signs etc. was for them and they would show their support against racism in other ways. A member declared something along the lines of: those who chose not to be vocal about this issue but who continued to sell products about African-Americans were profiting from their suffering and basically supporting racism…others posted in agreement…

The problem with this type of” loud cause crusader” is that they are not always helping the cause by the way they approach or manage their behaviour with others.

I was raised to believe that skin colour and culture did not play a part in who you were – it was the person inside that counted. I believe as a teacher and mother in modelling the positive, inclusive type of behaviour that I was raised to show myself – because these subtle actions are more effective and ongoing versus the loud words spoken for a brief, emotional, and in the heat of the moment, moment.

Because after that moment passes:
What then?
That moment goes and people move on…
until emotions are triggered by another event and the cycle begins again.

The Recent

Hurricane Harvey has left a trail of destruction that will take the affected communities a long time to rebuild from. A recent post in this group started along the lines of “I think….” and went on to say that this particular person did not think anyone should be creating and selling teaching resources about Hurricane Harvey because it was too soon, they were inappropriate, and implying that some sellers were profiting from itLet me state categorically, before I continue, that I do not have Hurricane Harvey resources in my store so in no way did I take these posts personally, but they soon became personal.

Thus began a series of replies that begun to quickly escalate in what I would describe as a ‘witch-hunt’. Specific resources were being discussed that members thought to be inappropriate – screen captures taken…and seller Q&As began to receive requests to “…take down this resource because…”.

At this point I would like to note that at least two sellers who received the comments above stated they were directly affected by Hurricane Harvey. I am unsure of the insurance coverage in the US but here in Australia natural disasters are often not covered and home owners do end up with very little after the crisis is over – save for a small amount of donation and/or recovery fund.

When resources were changed from paid to free –  members appeared to  ‘celebrate’ their success. When a resource was removed members appeared to 'gloat' over the success.

What had begun as one person’s opinion of appropriateness
had turned into a vigilante-style mob-mentality of
“Let’s get rid of resources that we think are inappropriate”.

This is when I decided I had to say something. I’m going to post exactly what I posted in the group because I have nothing to hide, regret, or be ashamed about.

"I think…I feel…

These are opinions. While I may or may not agree with other sellers posting resources and may or may not agree with their appropriateness is it not up to another person to dictate if another seller can post/sell/giveaway their products.

If you don’t like or agree with what they are doing – don’t follow…don’t buy.

But posting on a seller’s Q&A is (in my opinion) inappropriate. We are all responsible for our own stores and what we list and what we chose to charge for or not.

I am sure this is a highly emotional time for many BUT if individuals start telling other sellers what they should/should not be posting – Where will it end?

Yes I feel this thread is judgmental and based on an emotional event and time. There is however a fine line between having an opinion and a thread feeling like a mob-mentality and an attack.

I suggest everyone calming down, leaving those sellers alone, and focusing on what each person wants to do because we can only monitor ourselves."

My post did not go down well and it culminated in me being told to “STOP TALKING” and "STOP" in general as I tried to reiterate the point above. Some members began to reply with news articles about victims who had lost their lives in the disaster, others posted about how they had lost everything, and then members criticised me for not responding to those emotional responses.

Yes, it is tragic people lost their lives but the point of the original post was about resources being created and not about “How can I help these people in need”. Therefore, as I was viewing on my phone (which when you are getting notified of new messages in quick succession is difficult to keep up with) I chose to respond about the initial topic and of what I had responded to and not get caught up in the emotional responses because I felt it would be a case of  being wrong no matter what I wrote. Because of this stand I was branded as being unfeeling, lacking compassion and basically a horrid person…but it got worse…

The Marketplace At The Centre Of This

In the middle of this I had contacted the Marketplace to seek clarification of their stand and with my concerns as it was being implied that the Marketplace was supporting the "no resources or profiting" stand-point. An employee was very quick to respond (given the time difference between Australia and the US) and clarified that they do indeed have a policy that the Q&A section is:
  • for questions about products (and services)
  • not for targeting or harassing a seller

The message further went on to state that they had addressed the issue of resources in the seller forum and that while they had encouraged sellers to be sensitive to the disaster it was an individual’s choice as to whether they posted a resource and whether they charged for it or not.

I did copy excerpts from this message to the group so that the stand of the Marketplace was clear…but that didn’t go over well either. Some posted that the process the Marketplace had put in place (people could click a button on the product page to state their concerns and this was privately sent to the Marketplace to review) was too slow and that they felt it was their duty to “educate” these sellers and would continue to do so through the Q&A section of sellers’ pages for whatever products they felt were a harm to children.

Which Leads Me Back To The Group

At this point you might be thinking: But doesn’t the group have rules? Yes it does but the admin had already joined in on this thread in support of the members' views above.

The thread was eventually closed and admin decided to post a rather long reponse about the purpose and direction of the group - most of which I do not disagree with. They stated that they didn’t feel the need to change the guidelines but then wrote this, "When someone in this group is posting about something that is POTENTIALLY BRINGING HARM TO KIDS…"

Yes, I was branded as someone who was not only was lacking compassion, feeling, empathy…
but now advocated harm to children!
Because I asked for restraint?
Because I asked that they follow the policy of the Marketplace?

I did reply with a very carefully worded response which unsurprisingly didn’t go down well – and then I was kicked out of the group (though I had anticipated that happening before I posted in the first place).

Why Did I Bother Saying Something?

Children are very much “in the moment”. They have questions now about…
  • What are hurricanes?
  • How do hurricanes get their name?
  • Where is this hurricane?
  • How are people being affected?
  • What is being done to help these people now?
  • What will be done to help these people in the future?

I’ll be honest – I don’t have the amount of time required to create an accurate resource to answer the questions above in a timely manner. If someone has created one – fantastic, I can add to the content for my class if needed but having something to work from immediately is a huge help. I don’t mind paying for it because it is like any other resource – someone has taken the time to put it together and if I want that resource I will pay for it.

Some in the group stated to go to CNN. While I am unfamiliar with any resources CNN may have put out – it is my understanding they are a news channel  - I was unable to locate any educational teaching packs ready for teachers to use about this disaster at the time of posting.

These people are predominately educators and I personally find this type of behaviour worrying because they are responsible for the education of the next generation of adults.

Where is the objectivity?
Where is the restraint?
Where is the ‘think before you say'? 

These are people who would expect their class to follow their rules and yet felt that in this case they were entitled to overrule the policies of the Marketplace. The members involved in posting on the thread felt they had a right to tell others, yes dictate to others, to do something because they didn’t like it.

Teachers should be modelling the type of behaviours they want others to exhibit. Showing respect and empathy by setting the example and reinforcing this with discussions with others about how to show respect and empathy for others (for instance, just showing respect without drawing attention to it in the education setting is unlikely to have much effect). Teachers need to be showing it and then using that as a teaching point: How do I show that I respect you? (eye contact, listening, etc.) How do I show I have empathy for others? (by listening, acknowledging, etc.) – telling people (whether children or adults) what to do often has the reverse effect as many will dig in their heels “just because”.

I personally like to think I have enough common sense to identify if a product is inappropriate for my children or my students – I do not need someone else to tell me this.

And where would it stop? Yes I did see resources that I felt were inappropriate and would never buy related to the topic of Hurricane Harvey. But there are also resources I feel are inappropriate for their stereotypical (and sometimes inaccurate) portrayal of cultures and others for the generalised "wishy-washy" content - so I don’t buy them, I go and find what I feel is appropriate.

I feel it is important that my children (and students) know that just because people don’t listen or agree with you doesn’t mean that you are wrong. Just because you are a lone voice – doesn’t mean you are wrong. A voice may only be heard by a few but the message may be received by many.

The Marketplace involved has a very clear policy for the use of the Q&A section on each seller's page. As mentioned the Marketplace had posted in the seller forum section regarding Hurricane Harvey and outlined how to let them know about resources if there was concern – in this case a button which is on every product page could be clicked and concern privately shared with the Marketplace. They responded quickly with clarification on this matter and took action where appropriate in regards to their policies.

My thoughts are with anyone who is currently affected by the current and ongoing disasters – my apologies if I have overlooked one – please draw attention to it in the comments section below.
  • the people in northern India, southern Nepal, northern Bangladesh, and southern Pakistan where torrential rain and flooding has claimed 1,200 lives and an affected an estimated 40 million people
  • the people in Yemen facing a cholera outbreak which has already claimed 2,000 lives and an estimated 500,000 are infected in addition to having a lack of basic needs (including food, medical aid, and appropriate housing)
  • the people affected by Hurricane Harvey and the flooding of Houston
  • the people in California who are battling against severe wildfires
  • the people of Mexico who are affected by the tropical storm Lidia
  • the people of several countries including Canada, America, Mexico and the Caribean Islands bracing for Hurricane Irma
  • the residents of Ystalyfera, Wales who have been evacuated due to landslides from Allt-y-Grug and whose homes are now under threat of being destroyed

I welcome comments and thoughts on this subject but please note...
Any comments containing the name of the Marketplace involved or the Facebook group involved will be either redacted or deleted.
I have purposely chosen to identify neither in this post.

1 comment

  1. As a member of this particular group I was disappointed that some members chose to comment with their emotions. I agree there were some nasty things said in what I believe was the heat of the moment but that doesn't excuse it.

    I am sorry that you did not find support in the group for what its original purpose was.

    I wish you only the best.