I spend a fair amount of time on social media, but I’m generally a lurker rather than an active member. I’m also pretty ruthless about who I follow, and I don’t often interact with feeds that I’m not following. So I was honestly and genuinely horrified to see on a group I joined recently a post to the effect of ‘Does anyone else find it annoying when bike sites share pictures of naked women’.
My experience of sexism in the bike industry is that it’s usually fairly subtle (it’s there, but not with its clothes off and waving nipple tassles in your face). With the exception of the occasional obvious advertising disaster, it’s generally of the ‘but don’t you see why this is a problem?’ more nuanced variety. But media outlets sharing obviously and overtly sexist content? I really thought we’d moved past that. But no. It got me looking into it, to bits of the internet I’ve not had the misfortune to stumble upon before, and yes, as well as supposedly bike related sites sharing unsavoury memes, there are Instagram feeds dedicated to women on bikes (but not women doing or wearing the sorts of things on bikes that I’m interested in), and any number of men responding to this rubbish.
Sigh. It’s all so wearing. And sad. And annoying.
And no, it’s not ‘just banter’. It’s unacceptable. Especially if they’re reposting your Instagram pics of you out on an awesome bike ride and reducing you to a pretty object to be ogled.
But there’s a reason these sites are doing this. They’re building an audience – likes, shares, comments – collect them and you can collect ad revenue, or sell t-shirts. Perversely, even if you comment negatively, or you click the ‘angry’ button, you’re helping their stats – and worse still the algorithms behind the social media platforms will probably show you more of that sort of thing in future because you engaged with it.
Advertising is also tricky. In print, it’s simpler – you can ask brands not to advertise with companies that follow poor editorial policies, and they may (or may not) listen. But online ads are not always placed and sold selectively in the way that print ones are. In fact, earlier in the year when some big companies pulled their advertising from YouTube because of concerns their ads were appearing alongside extremist content, it actually affected the whole online market so much that the knock on effect was a greater number of poor quality ads (for example gambling, dating and porn sites) appearing on many sites. This is because many ads come not from direct deals with brands or companies, but through ad networks who place ads based on a range of factors, including price and subject matter.
So what can you do? Sure, you could just ignore it, shut down all your social media feeds and go ride a bike. But then you’d miss out on the good stuff that is out there – event news, skills tips, meet ups and gear reviews. Top tips like this even. So without further ado, here are my tips for using social media in a way that will give you more of the stuff you like, and address the stuff you don’t like without boosting their stats.
You can try reporting posts, but sadly much of the time very little will happen. Just look at the stream of unpleasantness out there on the internet and you’ll see that people are generally free to say and do whatever they please. You probably can’t stop them from existing, but you can stop them from making a living out of it if you follow the other suggestions listed here.
Choose ‘Hide Post’
On Facebook there are three little dots in the top right hand corner of a post. If you see something you don’t like, you can click on it and choose ‘Hide Post’. This will hide that particular post, but it will also tell the algorithms to show you less stuff like it in future. It doesn’t just have to apply to sexist posts – you can use it to signal that you don’t like meme shares, cat videos, e-bikes, or whatever else gets your goat. You’ll still get to see other content from that page, and you may find that some content you don’t like still sneaks through, but it will help clean up your feed and keep it focussed on stuff you’re interested in.
Don’t Comment or Engage
Don’t tell them you’re angry or say you don’t like their post. It boosts their stats. For heaven’s sakes don’t share it with your friends going ‘look at this!’. Screen shot it is you must talk about it. But don’t feed the stats, even if you might think you’re responding negatively.
If a page is posting content you don’t wish to see, one of the most powerful things you can do is unfollow them. The statistics will clearly show that pictures of naked women on bikes (or whatever) result in people stopping following their page. Providing this isn’t offset by new idiots following them in response to such posts, their numbers will take a hit. This makes them earn less revenue from ads, and also makes them less attractive to potential advertisers.
This is particularly useful if you’re being the victim of someone reposting your images on Instagram. Block them, and they can no longer see your posts and share them.
Contact the brands
If you see a brand using inappropriate images or posts to promote their products, write to them. Email them to tell them why you object, and then make as much noise about it on social media as you can. Use their hashtags or tag their usernames so their social media teams will see the negative feedback – and anyone else searching for them will see it all too. And because it’s polite, when you score a victory, make a noise about that too, and make sure positive steps are acknowledged.
Engage with stuff you like
It’s not all negative and fighting off the stuff you don’t like. Follow people and brands that reflect your outlook. Make yourself heard. Interact with the content that does interest you – show the media and brands that there are people like you out there who are interested and are potential customers. If you engage with content you like, it makes that content more valuable, and so you’re more likely to see investment in creating more of the stuff you like.
Tell your friends
If you see a brand or media outlet doing stuff you like, tell your friends about it. Invite them to like the Facebook page, share that post you thought was interesting, and sign up to receive newsletters. All these things are free to you, but valuable to brands and the media. You’re not spending any money, but you’re still rewarding them for producing content or products that appeal to you.
So there we have it. Eight steps to a happier timeline. Now get off the internet, and go and ride your bike!