The Pitfalls of Giving Guinea Pig Advice 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.
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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