I Am My Neighbourhood Troll
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
I wanted to offer a discount to my community for photography, but the no advertising rule applies to me and me alone.
This morning I was encouraged to leave my local Facebook group by its administrator and accused of being a troll. I joined the group in August 2021 and asked if I could promote my local photography in the group with a discount offering for members. The administrator said no, but there’s a monthly post on which you can add your details. Great. I did that, but as is the nature of such posts, it got lost and there was very low visibility. I know this because my partner is in the same group, and it never appeared on his feed.
Over the next few months, I noted that the local pub, chemist, dental surgery, fitness classes, shopping centres, markets, fetes and food truck events were promoted by the businesses themselves and also by administrators - posting opening hours, re-openings, products available (RATs mainly) and weather postponements etc. While these announcements could be construed as “informational” they are also giving airtime to businesses in general and putting their names and services front and centre. Some blatantly had their service list, prices and advertising language that could only be considered a promo.
For transparency and context, during my membership in the group, I have:
· Instigated a post for finding playdates for my seven-year-old daughter
· Found and employed my regular cleaner by enquiring on the page
· Cared for a stranger’s guinea pig while they went on holiday
· Tried (and failed, but REALLY TRIED) to start a local yoga class for neighbours
· Supported my partner when he suggested the level of Covid posts on the group be limited as they were repeats of news items available elsewhere
· Responded to requests for information about local business, recommendations etc.
Today I responded to a post in which the author made fun of some of the regular occurrences in the group – whining about dog poo and parking issues, that sort of thing. The post called for “other items” – I said something along the lines of new members needing to learn how to panic about burglaries and associate them with people of colour, because the racist remarks that are allowed to fly on page are many. I also said that perhaps some clarity around who’s exempt from the rules on business posting would be nice. I’m paraphrasing, but basically, I was being cheeky. Sarcastic though I might have been, nothing I said was nasty, and nothing I said was false.
The administrator and I exchanged some messages and posts – during which I repeated my complaint which was that it seems that a local reiki practitioner can post their offering, the pub can post their menu, and the chemist can post their RAT prices any day of the week, but I can’t say a word unless it's the first of the month and that's just not always the best day for me. None of that is untrue.
I was, of course, accused of comparing myself to an essential service like a GP or an emergency dentist. Nope. I’m not. I’m just saying they’re making money with patronage from the community, and a business is a business. If they can post or be endorsed, why can’t I?
Why, as artists and creatives, are we always relegated to the lowest rung of the ladder? Do we not bring joy? Do we not incite pleasure?
The administrator told me I was constantly trolling the group (umm? This is the second time I've said anything negative and it's genuine feedback) and never had anything nice to say (errr? The guinea pig loved me!) and that perhaps I should leave. So, I did, taking the things I hoped to share with the community with me.
What perplexes me most is looking back at who has been allowed to stay. The gentleman who pointed out the skin colour of a person he observed driving through the street. Driving. The gentleman who aimed his camera off his balcony and took paparazzi style photographs of families with children happily inspecting their new block. His point was that it is too dangerous to be on a construction site and he proudly reported them to the authorities, the creepy photos shared on a platform of over a thousand people was just icing on his busy body cake.
And what of the people who consistently incite fear in others by wringing their hands about petty crimes or perceived near crimes, e.g. security footage of people who dare to wear hoods near a front yard, committed by people assumed to be “from the other side of the tracks” and therefore subhuman. Yes, stealing is a crime, but conflating a few small incidents into a moral panic about humans from a certain area, race, demographic or suburb is quite uncivilised, too.
None of those individuals are troll enough to be asked to use the door to our community Facebook group. Only me. With my camera, one I only point at families who know I’m taking pictures. Apparently, I am the problem, the instigator of the group’s issues, by asking, really quite politely, if I can please offer a fat discount to my neighbours in exchange for my local knowledge, passion, experience, and love of this coastline.
Please, if you are a member of my community and you live in the area (you’ll know if you do) reach out to me and I will gladly look after you.
Taya Reid is a writer + photographer
on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja
Edit: Since posting this some time has expired and other group members have reached out to me saying they feel the same and have been shut down in the past. Yikes. Dictatorship.
Some kind people have also mentioned there are other community break away groups I could join. Absolutely, but I don't really have feelings about the group membership itself - my life is no less rich for it - it's more a fascination with how people operate in digital microcosm.
I'm sad that it's difficult to give something, which is all I really was aiming for (contrary to popular belief "exposure" does very little for a photographer without firsthand recommendations) and even that can be perceived as making a grab.
All photographs in this blog are taken by Taya in the area within 4km of her home