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So the day after I published my lovely pictures from Frootogo Orchards, all hell broke loose. If you haven’t heard the story, someone wrote on Facebook that the owner of Frootogo was incredibly rude to a group of disabled adults that had come to the farm for a trip. When I first saw the story, it already had over 600 shares. By the next morning, the story had 2200 shares. Media reports say that the story was shared over 3000 times before it was unceremoniously deleted by the original poster.
Read the original post and the official response:
Facebook post about Waterdown orchard sparks online uproar
When I read the story, I was outraged. Everyone was.
But then I read the story again. I read it a few times, because quite honestly I like that farm and I didn’t want it to be true.
As I reread, I noticed phrases like “I could tell her apology was insincere” and “it seemed like we were unwanted there” – that’s subjective opinion, not fact. And, in reading the post, I learned that terms like “handicapped” and “challenged” aren’t politically correct anymore – I honestly had no idea and I’m embarrassed that I’ve used the term “handicapped bathroom” and “handicapped parking spot” for so long. Those terms used to be correct and I didn’t know they had changed; clearly this woman from Frootogo was unaware too.
So I instead of sharing the post with my Facebook friends, I waited to hear the response from Frootogo. And I watched the page.
People were awful. They were so, so vicious. Copies of the original post have shown up in many Facebook groups that I belong to and everyone is incensed. People have vowed never to return. They’ve left nasty messages on the Frootogo Facebook page. And they’ve shared and shared and shared.
And this bothers me just as much as the original story of discrimination.
Do we not care if it actually happened? Are people now guilty until proven innocent?
I looked at the Facebook profile of the person who posted the story – she doesn’t use her last name on her account and the only thing that was public on her page was the story. She is virtually anonymous. She didn’t have any friends in common with me – no one I know could vouch for her. She also hasn’t talked to the media and no one from her workplace has confirmed her story. That’s not to say she’s lying – it’s just that I have no reason to believe her version of events over anyone else’s.
I don’t know if she’s the sort of person given to exaggeration. I don’t know if she might have remembered some of the details wrong. Her post said that “I decided that we would leave because I was not willing to subject the participants to this kind of discrimination”, but she didn’t mention the storm that had just rolled in, and that makes me wonder what other details were left out.
After the story went viral, a new complaint surfaced on Trip Advisor about a nursing mother told by the owners that she should be ashamed for exposing herself in public. She said that she went to her car to nurse in the parking area, and the owners followed her out to the car and said “We don’t allow that on our property, leave now!” Wow – that’s just – wow.
Picking on a breastfeeding mother? You know that gets my blood pressure up. And let’s be honest – with two complaints about bad behaviour, it gets hard to defend the farm. But the story was posted by someone with no contact information, no last name. The review was posted by an account just created yesterday. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen – I’m just saying that I can’t join a boycott of a business based on an anonymous complaint. If, on the other hand, the reviewer wants to put her full name and face behind her story, then you can be sure you’ll see me first in line at the nurse-in. I’ll be the one nursing a walking, talking toddler. ;)
Again, I’m not saying that these events didn’t happen – who can say one way or the other? I’m just saying that we need to think for a minute before we share with our friends.
And when we do share with our friends, we need to be clear about why we are doing it. Many people on the Frootogo Facebook page are infuriated by the inappropriate language (specifically the words handicapped and challenged). If that’s the case, then wouldn’t a mailbox full of respectful messages have gotten the point across? Does a business need to be destroyed for the purpose of education? Likewise, if we do have a nurse-in, will it be to humiliate the business owners or to show our support for other breastfeeding mothers? How can we go about making our point without destroying someone’s livelihood?
I suppose I’m biased because I’m a small business owner too. I can’t even imagine my Facebook page blowing up like the Frootogo page has over the past couple days. I mean, what’s to stop my high school nemesis (no, I don’t have a high school nemesis) from making a fake Facebook profile, claiming that I made some racist comments and then stepping back to watch social media destroy everything I’ve worked so hard to build? Can I trust that people will wait to hear my side of the story?
I know that our hearts are in a good place, but we have to have a bit more self-control. No one is safe in a society that will share first, ask questions later.
What are your thoughts? How do we encourage a business to behave properly without crossing the line ourselves?
UPDATE: From the Frootogo Facebook page, regarding the breastfeeding incident: “This story did not happen at our farm. Perhaps they are mixed up with another place? We fully allow breastfeeding on the farm – it is a natural thing and our family does breastfeeding.” Also, since this blog post, I’ve read Facebook posts from others confirming that they’ve nursed many times at the farm and have never been told to cover up.