The Pitfalls of Giving Guinea Pig Advice on Facebook

Celyn and GethinImage courtesy of Castaway in Scotland

Celyn and Gethin enjoying a cucumber. Most people want a place to share cute photos, but if you need assistance with ongoing care, you might want to join a forum instead.

A friend of mine expressed concern over a post that popped up in his Facebook feed. It was a comment I had made that contained the word genitalia. He worried that the post could leave a bad impression on any potential employer that was researching me on Facebook. My comment wasn’t anything rude or pornographic. However, my comment and others like it could still leave a potential employer scratching their head: I post  guinea pig advice (including how to determine the sex of a pig) on Facebook.

As it turns out, this particular comment disappeared within six hours of originally writing it. It probably violated some smut-filter on Facebook, or, more likely, the original poster wasn’t happy that all of their friends could read what I wrote. I wasn’t really thinking about that when I was typing up the advice. Having it deleted isn’t so bad – I no longer have a vulgar post associated with my name.  However, I have no idea if the person who was asking what sex their pig was ever got the advice they were looking for.

This short series of events brought to light several issues in using Facebook instead of a guinea pig forum for advice. It can be detrimental both for the person inquiring and the people doling out advice.

There are dozens of Facebook pages about guinea pigs, with varying amounts of accurate information. Some pages are focused on just the cute side of guinea pigs, others are trying to be informative. I am a moderator on the cavymadness page and regularly give advice on another Facebook guinea pig page that has over 12,000 members (likes). Generally, people are looking for a place to share photos of guinea pigs. But in between the cute stories and photos there are several posts asking for basic information on health and care. Many of these people are brand new to guinea pig ownership and have stumbled across these Facebook pages. A few have done their research on other guinea pig websites and are looking for a live person to help explain what they’ve read from conflicting sources.

The worst problem, as the person giving advice, is dealing with the Facebook Wall. Most questions are fairly mundane, covering topics such as what food to eat, where to find good hay, how big should a cage be and how many pigs one should get. Those types of questions usually get several responses in a short amount of time, often a link to a well-established web site. It’s the more complex questions, about illnesses, behavior, fleece bedding or sexing a guinea pig that are difficult to deal with. A wall post pretty much drops into oblivion once people post a couple of dozen newer items. I find that there’s not much activity after the original post is 24 hours old. If there is, only a handful of people see it. There’s no way to tag a question, or to categorize them. You cannot search through a wall for a specific exchange. A person may post their question multiple times, in an attempt to get a full answer. Conversations get disjointed as a they are spread out over multiple posts and may get conflicting answers for the same questions.

piggy kissesImage courtesy of JustineMajeune
Then there’s the issue that inspired this article: everything that is posted on a Facebook page ends up on someone’s feed. I can’t limit my advice to only the users of that page. Lately it seems that comments are relegated to the Ticker, which is a plus. However, I’m still not thrilled that I cannot summarily suppress all of my guinea pig advice comments from showing up anywhere. I really don’t want to spam all of my friends with guinea pig information. And yet, I want to share my knowledge with those who are asking, including the dicey topic of how to properly identify the sex of a guinea pig. So I live with the fact I come across as the crazy (and potentially perverted) Guinea Pig Lady.

Facebook has an amazing world-wide reach. It’s pretty cool to be giving advice to someone in a country I’ve never heard of. (It can also be pretty tricky when the language, food and resources are so very different than my own.) So many people are on Facebook all the time, it seems like a great place to ask questions and dole out advice. But if a person has more than just a few basic questions, and certainly if a guinea pig has any kind of ongoing illness, then a Facebook wall doesn’t satisfy the need. In the end, there’s no replacing a good guinea pig forum. It may seem a hassle to get an account and learn the culture of a forum, but it is worth the effort.  The advice is much more uniform. Questions don’t get lost. It’s organized, so everyone can search for information and follow a conversation that lasts more than a day. Forums tend to be better moderated than the Facebook walls. The information is linked to a user name rather than your full name, which helps keep your gory guinea pig life separate from your normal life. And best of all, you won’t be spamming your friends with detailed instructions on how to tell if your pup is a boar.

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Sally has owned guinea pigs for over 20 years and has organized the Boston Pignics since 2003. She is the CavyMadness "guinea guru" and assists guinea pig beginners on other cavy forums. Sally currently cares for a pair of sows.

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3 Responses to “The Pitfalls of Giving Guinea Pig Advice on Facebook”
  1. Crystal says:

    Agreed a millions times over!! When starting out I found GuineaLynx invaluable. I would also now categorize myself as a guinea pig “guru” I guess and I just couldn’t agree more on what you said and how well you said it 🙂

  2. Gev Sweeney says:

    I think a responsible and reasonable potential employer would be aware of what he or she is reading in context, on the site where the content belongs. If not, then would you want to be employed by somebody who isn’t mindful of what they’re doing and reading and seeing, and who is likely to presume falsehoods?

  3. Kim (aka Castaway) says:

    I think it’s good advice not to expect sound advice from Facebook or any other general social networking site – and not just about guinea pig care! I’m not active on Facebook myself, but have been pretty shocked and at times saddened to see people asking for advice and getting crummy advice in return. Reputable forums are always going to be the best source of information on most things.

    (BTW – that’s my late piggies Celyn and Gethin in the photo, so I hope no one who knows me, or knew them think that I would be the sort to give or take advice on piggie care from random folks on facebook!)

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