The Personal and the Professional of the Crested Gecko Hobby: The Complexitities of Sharing Personal Socio-Political Views where Potential Buyers/Sellers May See Them
For my 150th post, I figured I should do something a bit more substantial than photos of my geckos. I’ve touched in previous posts on the complexity of working in a fairly small hobby that operates on a named basis and often personal values. Those posts have focused on personal reputation in the hobby specifically in terms of keeping, breeding, and selling animals, such as:
- potential difficulties in reporting bad business or husbandry practices produced by the shift of BOI-style complaints from forums to a social media network that joins their business and personal identity (“Examining the Shift from Forums to Facebook and Potential Consequences for Positive and Negative Breeder Feedback”);
- issues of antagonizing sellers on their public ads and of creating your identity within the community as potentially producing “drama” or spouting ill-informed information (“Crested Geckos and the Concept of ‘Market Value'”); and
- a combination of such discussions in creating a safe space for hobbyists to come together and work with one another for the ethical care of their shared species (“Another Post on Pricing – and Basic Hobby Etiquette to Create Safer Spaces fro Discussion”), to name a few.
What I haven’t gotten into is something much, much more contentious, and that is personal issues that may not have to do with geckos. I know plenty of people in the community who will not do business with each other or with specific people who may or may not know that they are blacklisted. In the case of the former, it is generally breeders who openly disagree about husbandry and openly do not get along. In the case of the latter, it is normally a matter of knowing someone else’s husbandry and not feeling comfortable sending a gecko into their care. These things happen. In both examples, this is normally specifically built on issues of animal care, though it might also include business practices that potential buyers and sellers don’t support, such as bullying of others in the hobby.
I’d like to take a moment to draw out a few causes for deals that might not go down that I think are potentially exacerbated by running the community more and more through Facebook and through the forums. The first few examples are pretty straight-forward and not necessarily rooted in Facebook use over forum use, but as the list goes on, issues begin to pop up that have little if any direct correlation to the hobby, but could affect its transactions (or lack thereof):
- Disagreeing with someone’s care for their animals (including basic care and breeding practices) – this is an obvious one; why would you want to send your animal to someone whose practices you find unsafe? Alternatively, you might not want to financially support someone whose basic husbandry you find unethical by purchasing from him/her. These fall clearly under hobby-related reasons not to do business with someone.
- Disagreeing with someone’s business practices – this could potentially overlap with the previous bullet point (selling a female that needs a year off from breeding could be seen both as a husbandry issue and a business issue), but I’m talking about ideas such as not supporting someone who sells thousands of geckos each year to pet stores, where they are often not cared for properly, or not supporting someone because that person has bullied others in the community, bashed you personally, or related activities that you find unprofessional.
- Not wanting to do business simply because you do not get along – this may sound petty, but I can think of a few people with whom I would not want to engage in conversation for long enough to make a transaction (though I suppose if one of us was vending a table, we could avoid most of that). As I have previously written (“Putting Geckos Up for Trade – And Getting Some Wacky Responses”), dealing with people can be a complete pain in the butt, all-too-often fraught with misunderstandings and haggling, and if it’s a person with whom you already do not get along, I can see why you would be more likely to make the sale to a friendly acquaintance. This animosity can easily grow from either forum use or Facebook use.
- Disagreeing with a person you could in no way respect, regardless of husbandry – Here, is where Facebook activity really comes into play. Plenty of people have been in fights for years via the forums. That’s established. Facebook, however, provides opportunities for potentially passionate disagreements that no one particularly sought out because people are posting their social and political views all the time to people they often friended based on reptile interest alone.
For example, this week, someone friended me, and usually if we have a high number of mutual reptile friends, especially those with whom I actually interact, I accept the friend request (I will note here, that outside of the hobby, I never accept unknown friend requests; it is an allowance I make only for reptile connections). I had never heard of this person, but since we had over 30 friends in common, some of whom I respected a great deal, I accepted. I did not expect what happened tonight.
After the individual posted non-reptile-related content to which a few of our mutual gecko friends took offense and offered counterarguments, I joined in, as I found the content rather disturbing. The individual’s counterpoint to my response was to suggest that “every feminist is on the same menstrual cycle [...] this week”.
I have kept my politics off this blog up to this point, and plan to do so in the future, but I will say outright, that if someone reduces my perspectives to menses (how sad is it that I now feel obliged to clarify that no, I am not menstruating) in order to silence my making a rational argument by implying the irrationality associated with female physiology (you do know that the wandering womb isn’t true, right?), I have absolutely no interest in doing business with this person. If you cannot interact with me like an intelligent adult, I am genuinely not interested in working with you. If this seems petty to you, oh well. Reduce me to a uterus, and I have no interest in working with you. Period.
Pro tip: You don’t always need to friend people whose animals interest you; you can simply follow their business pages if they have one. In all fairness, not everyone does, and sometimes it can be difficult to connect the names of the people posting in groups to the actual business names. This is the reason I often tag my business page when I share photos of my geckos (I worry that it looks like way too much self-promotion, but it could have helped to avoid this situation, for sure). Just because you are interested in someone’s animals does not mean you are interested in seeing their posts as an actual person.
Honestly, though, I’m often glad to get a sense of a person through their personal posts. You can consider it “favoritism” if you’d like, but businesses get bashed all the time for supporting bigotry based on public statements; employee policies; and financial donations to prejudice causes, and Rhac ‘Em Up does not support blatant bigotry. If these issues don’t matter to you in your transactions, it’s none of my business, and I honestly don’t care (unless perhaps you are a close friend of mine, in which case I might be a bit disappointed). These are Rhac ‘Em Up standards, however, and I think that it is important to recognizes that in this hobby, our personal personas are linked tightly with our brands, and as we espouse beliefs publicly, they become tied to our possible transactions more than I think most people realize.
One last note: Even if you disagree entirely (which is cool; not everyone is going to share the same business practices), I do want this particular post to point out that down the line, someone you would like to set up a sale, trade, or loan may be hesitant for reasons you had not anticipated. I should emphasize that this is not limited to social views, which can be contentious, but other signs of potential unreliability; posting about every drinking and driving mishap, for example, may not instill confidence into those you would like to trust you with their geckos for loans, sales, or even sending money in advance for purchases. This hobby encompasses a lot of different age groups, education levels, and socio-economic statuses, and what is normal behavior to some might be red flags to others. There is something to be said for keeping your personal and business pages separate – though I have made some fantastic friends through the community and would hate to miss out on some of the posts about their personal lives; it’s all about striking a healthy balance that works for you.