Agvocates. Ever heard of the term?
It’s the name many agricultural advocates (get it?) give themselves to describe what they do--support and champion for agriculture. Anyone can be an agvocate: farmers, agronomists, animal scientists, 4-H students, nonprofit organizations, Grandma Beth, Uncle Joe. All you need is a passion for agriculture--and maybe a social media account.
Some studies suggest social media is one of the best places to connect with people who share similar values, especially when it comes to emotive topics (i.e., topics that generate strong feelings and, I would add, are often spun as controversial). That’s why so many agvocates are actively involved on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram--even TikTok. They want to have a conversation and raise awareness about the facts, challenges, initiatives, or research in the field.
Let’s look at an example...
Many people eat meat and other animal products, but there is a lot of tension around their welfare. The topic especially becomes amplified when news breaks about the mistreatment of animals.
Since most of what we see is the end product of animal agriculture (e.g., milk, meat, bone broth, etc.), we’re mostly left in the dark about how they’re treated unless we are directly working with them. We have an idea of what the animal went through for us to enjoy that end product, but when we read about actions (e.g., abuse) that violate our norms, our feelings intensify and we react negatively. This is when an agvocate's role matters most.
|Brandi Buzzard Frobose, a.k.a. Buzzard's Beat, |
regularly weighs in on heated topics in the news,
bringing in her own knowledge and experience
to explain what's going on.
Agvocates have the ability in that moment to insert their voice and experience into the conversation and influence the reactions of those who feel society’s norms have been violated. As Stevens, Aarts, Termeer, and Dewulf (2016) put it:
“Social media offer a stage for all actors involved, such as farmers, citizens, consumers, politicians, and experts to engage in the conversation and voice their opinion.”This, in turn, generates more news and diffuses insight to a larger audience through social engagement with the agvocate’s content.
Of course, social media creates echo chambers in which individuals use their personalized space to reinforce their group’s norms. And sometimes this can turn out for the worst.
But there is evidence that argues social media allows for an understanding of someone else’s life that would otherwise not be accessible to them. Studies focused on social media’s influence on empathy and perspective taking suggest younger people, such as adolescents, are able to understand and share emotions of those they follow on social media. And the type of content shared may invoke varying responses to how we perceive ourselves. In other words, staying connected might help us develop empathic skills.
This is why agvocacy matters--building relationships with people who are interested (even for a moment) that you could not otherwise reach may help build empathic skills.
The takeaway: Agvocates, keep doing your thing.