Social Media and The Loss of Serendipity

Recently I read a post on the Chrome Chasers‘ blog that got me thinking about social media and the way in which it threatens the unexpected in the things we do and encounter in our lives.

In his post, Keith Allison – owner of Chrome Chasers – observes that social media is one of the biggest threats to steelhead. Where fly fishers used to drive for hours in the hope of finding steelhead – with some incredible trips while others wound up as busts, now people consult social media for up to the minute status, guaranteeing that once quiet lightly peopled rivers are flooded with crowds and boats all wanting to hit the “epic” conditions.

He went on to say that he’s seen out of area guides posting about their success – thus bringing in more people, and in one instance he helped out a guide in trouble who was taking clients down a river the guide had never run before. I guess you can’t blame the guide; after all he was after the epic conditions for his paying clients and didn’t have time to do his homework. I wonder if his clients knew how poorly he served them.

Social media is now omnipresent and here to stay. Some estimates suggest that by 2018, 2.4 billion people will be using social media (up from less than one million in 2010). That expected increase is in spite of the revelations that every communication online eventually winds up in some government big-data store.

And it’s not to say that social media doesn’t have its uses from enabling societal change as happened in Tunisia and Egypt, or being used as a focal point for communication between family or friends during disasters. And it’s handy for being reminded to pick up something from the grocery on the way home.

The problem I see is that social media eliminates the separation between the private and the public. Everything we see, do, think or feel winds up posted, texted or tweeted. There is no pause to reflect on whether what is being done should be closely held or broadcast (literally) to the world.

As individuals, I think we have to own the responsibility for deciding what to post, text, or tweet. And I think we also have to be responsible for deciding what we read in social media.

In fly-fishing or any other activity in nature, it’s often better not to know and just show up and be open to what happens.

There have been mornings spent on Puget Sound where no sea run cutthroat trout were to be found. But then again, on many of those mornings there were eagles overhead and seals just off the beach. One morning, I looked behind me to see a deer looking at me.

I would have lost those opportunities if I had read a post saying there was nothing to catch in the Narrows and then decided not to go or go somewhere else. And I would have deprived someone else of the same random chance if I had been the one doing the posting.

We all need to be responsible for protecting the natural world and what it offers in terms of privacy and solitude. And maybe take a moment to think about what and when before posting or tweeting after landing that steelhead or trout.

You can read the post here.

Tom

Author: Tom

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