One of the bloggers for, jpmmcbride, just published an article titled, "3 Reasons Social Media Ruins the Outdoors." As you are probably aware, social media is a topic that I am quite passionate about and spend a lot of time thinking about. Here was my response to John:

Hey John, thanks for the great post! This is an interesting question, and I think it’s an important discussion to have. However, I disagree with you on most of your points.

For points #1 and #3, I think it depends largely on the attitude of the people posting and viewing on social media. Posting your adventures doesn’t have to be narcissistic, and viewing others’ adventures doesn’t have to create jealousy and anger. Why the heck can’t we just be happy for one another? Also, I’ve found that generally, what goes around comes around: just because I see a Facebook “friend” posting photos while skiing massive peaks in Alaska, BC, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Utah, and everywhere that I might have missed in between doesn’t mean I need to be jealous of him. I just enjoy getting to see cool photos from his experiences… it definitely beats baby photos and crappy memes!

Several months ago Relevant Magazine published an article that made some of the same arguments that you made. I wrote a response that I think responds well to some of the points that you brought up, and I posted it here:

The short version is, I don’t see any reason why we can’t use social media to celebrate the beautiful moments in life. There are so many dull, boring moments, downright dirty, disgusting moments, so many instances of evil and abuse and greed and depression in this world, why can’t we enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? I think the desire to share those moments of beauty with the world with whatever means we have at our disposal is a natural and good tendency, not a bad one.

Now, point #2 is something that I’ve struggled with. In the past, I held strongly to the opinion that you expressed here… but now, when I want to go back and check out photos from those journeys in an attempt to relive them, I don’t have any to look at! While being obsessed with taking photos and capturing the moment can often times ruin the purity of the experience, as I mentioned above I think a desire to capture and share that moment can be natural and good.

My solution to point #2 has been to shoot photos sometimes, but not all of the time. Since shooting photos and writing about my mountain bike experiences is my job, spending time capturing the ride is just a fact of life for me. It puts food on the table. However, I try to look for opportunities to NOT stand around shooting photos for an hour. For instance, I rarely shoot photos on my regular after work rides on my local trails. I ride them all the time and cover them regularly, so I don’t need to really capture that experience every single time. Also, I personally try to avoid taking photos of sports that I’m not getting paid to participate in or document. Right now, that’s skiing for me. When I’m skiing, I can just enjoy the experience and revel in it.

On the flip side, sometimes I still want to capture and share those experiences for the reasons I mentioned above. And to be honest, the rise of the smartphone has made it quicker and less intrusive than ever to grab a few snapshots. But even if I DO grab a few quick shots, spending maybe 30 seconds to do so, I try not to post those photos until I’ve returned home and am back in front of the computer. Taking a snapshot takes a second, but crafting a caption, posting to Facebook, and waiting for the photo to upload via a weak 3G signal takes a lot longer. So, I encourage you to just shoot some shots, and post ‘em later!

Like I said at the beginning, I think this is a great article that should trigger a very interesting and useful discussion. I think it’s important that we think about how and why we use social media, and that we examine its influence in our lives. As you concluded, “Social media is a tool. And just like any other tool, it can be used to create something beautiful or destroy something that was once precious.”

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