Saturday, November 01, 2014

There's Connection and there's connection

Lately I've been a little taken aback--nonplussed, as it were--by how many otherwise rational (one hopes) horse owners feel comfy taking to the Interwebs and all their Wikiness for advice on subjects that would be better addressed with a professional.  In person. In the Real World (IRL, for you trendy geeks).  On the [choke!] telephone or face-to-face.

I'm going to gloss over the folks on one particular site who feel completely at ease asking strangers to diagnose their own, sometimes frightening, symptoms of disease and offer cures.  Legal advice when the cops are dragging you out the door falls into the same category.  I'm going to stick to the horse world, which is curious enough by itself.
"You promised me internet in the barn.
You lied."

I was particularly intrigued by some of the queries on a particular social networking platform (I'm on nearly all of them, including one no one has ever heard of, so don't bother guessing).  Somewhere along the way, we horse folks stopped embracing the fresh-air, fuzzy-noses, real world of our animals and moved indoors to our lairs.  There we put together videos and long, complicated explanations and questions about our horses' conditions and issues, real or imagined.  Then we push them out through the mysterious cyber-place to where other horse folks are sitting around waiting to jump all over us for our silliness.  We do this over, and over, and over.

The ones that strike me as oddest are the queries in which the problem being studied is so odd and complicated that even an in-person, on-site vet, dentist, shoer, or psychic experience would likely come up empty.  So why in the world, when an animal's (and often a human's) life may be at stake would anyone take to the Web for advice from a gaggle of strangers whose credentials are only hearsay?

Take a moment and read this article about real connection, the kind between a human and his equine partner, then we'll move on.

Some Horses and Riders Have Co-Being Relationships

This became particularly weird when I found that some horse people of my acquaintance have been not only going high-tech and distant with their horsiness, but have been triangulating their horse pros into the relationship.

At what point does it become okay to email, or text or PM (that's "private message" for my less-techy readers),  or attempt a "Hangout" (Googlespeak for "annoying group exercise in non-communication akin to a family funeral gathering") with one's equine professional?  Huh?  When did that happen?

I know the answer.  The answer is NEVER!  No matter how much you love your equine pros, their probably not vitally interested in what shows you're planning to attend, or the details of the costume your kid and her pony will be donning for the Fair.  They're certainly not interested enough to enjoy your interruption of their private time to share that.  The Internet has made us all feel communal.  We're not.  We could stand to regain a little of that professional/client distance.

Here's the thing.  If you've got a problem with your horse, you've got a bunch of options.  It it's a health issue, a hoof issue, or a mouth issue, picking up the phone and calling the vet, dentist, or farrier makes perfect sense.  Many of them have emergency numbers.  You can leave a message, and about 90% of them will call back as soon as they're finished with the emergency they're working on at the moment.  Many have alternate numbers where there are people who will pick up the phone immediately.  It's amazing!  They are actually willing to talk to you, and might even have the solution to your problem at hand!  Whoa!
Duke and Dillon, co-being ridiculously cute

If it's a training issue, it's most likely an emergency only in your mind, so call and make an appointment with your trainer or one you think might be willing to work with you.  Or ask the best horseman in your barn for help.  Even these folks can't possibly do you any good via text, believe me.

And to take it one step farther, at what point is any level of non-emergency contact welcome by most professionals during their dinner hour or while they're on vacation?  I know the answer to that one, too:  If the horse is in danger of dying right this minute.  Not if you think there might be a problem soon. Not if there's been an ongoing problem for a few days and you just now got around to doing something about it.  Not if someone happened to see your horse and told you s/he might or might not be suffering from some exotic ailment.  Call; don't text.

When is the time to go online and open your discussion to a bunch of strangers with a huge array of agendas none of which are yours?  When you have nothing better to do for an hour and only if you can control your urge to scream at the monitor.

Recently on one of the less crazy of the question-and-answer sites, someone asked me why trolls troll.  The answer to that is about the same as the answer to why people feel at ease among anonymous strangers whose qualifications are obvious only to themselves.  Here's a good synopsis:

Why We Love Social Media

We've been lured into believing that strangers are our community.  We develop relationships with them that would never exist in the real world, and we cut through red tape and save time (and money) by just throwing our stuff out there for a free consult.  It's something to think about the next time you need advice about your horse.  If all you want is to chat with fellow sufferers, then have at it.  But if you want real advice and help, pick up the phone.  It's a much better option.

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