Social media feuding among outdoorsmen only fueling decline of our sports
It is widely documented that sportsmen’s ranks are declining nation-wide. There are various reasons for this decline, and all are cause for concern. However, one contributing factor may be of our own doing, and I hope we can fix the problem before it drives even more people away from the outdoor sports we love.
I regularly share my blog posts on various social media pages, and the discussions they generate are always intriguing. Most feedback is positive. Some topics prompt discussions. Others spark debates on how deer management practices should change. Occasionally, comments become heated and arguing ensues, even though that result is far from the intent of the initial post.
This got me thinking about the overall climate of social media and outdoorsmen in general. How many times have we seen social media discussions get out of hand, perhaps unnecessarily, simply because commenting parties did not mind their manners?
Take for instance the following examples:
- A proud father posts a picture of his son’s first buck, taken with a crossbow at 40-plus yards. Most say great job and congratulate the young hunter on his successful harvest. Then someone makes a comment about questionable shot placement. Another says that’s too far for a young kid to ethically shoot. A third person starts harping that crossbows have no place in the statewide archery season. A fourth chimes in that they should’ve let the deer walk another year. Some come to the defense of the happy hunter, yet bickering ensues. A page administrator is forced to intervene and two outspoken members get booted from the group.
- In a fishing group page, an excited angler shares a photo of a breeder-sized stocked rainbow trout taken on a fly – his best fish to date. Three people ask where he was fishing and what he was using. Several blast him for his improper fish-handling techniques. One guy complains about unfair stocking allocations, and another asks if he kept it or threw it back. When the angler replies that he kept it for dinner, one guy calls him greedy and a 30-comment debate over catch-and-release vs. put-and-take fishing begins. The angler becomes discouraged and doesn’t post any more photos out of fear for future backlash.
- A waterfowl-hunting forum discussion goes something like this: “Hey guys, I’m looking to get into goose hunting for the first time. Any advice on where to start would be appreciated. If anyone lives close to (insert town name), I’d love to tag along on a hunt and see what it’s all about.” The response is overwhelming in a negative way. Hunter after hunter, overprotective of “their” hunting spots, slam the poor guy about being lazy. They state that waterfowl hunting takes investments in time and money, that he needs to put in some time scouting to earn his keep, and that there are no free rides. Irritated, the newbie says “Screw it,” quits the forum, and gives up on his futile attempt to join the sport.
These are all real-life examples I’ve seen transpire online over the past year. I didn’t even include the Sunday hunting debate, let alone the discussion that follows anytime a hunter posts an estimated score of an antlered whitetail he or she harvests. Those comment chains have the potential to break records.
While there are times to call people out for clearly illegal actions or otherwise mistaken or demeaning posts, I strongly suggest we all get off our high horses and try being a little nicer on social media. Not every post is grounds for criticism. In fact, offering simple congratulations and encouragement can help strengthen our ranks rather than tear us down and drive us apart.
In a world when we are losing participating numbers annually, division of our own doing is the last thing the outdoor community needs. It is imperative that we stick together and remain positive promoters of our sport, which starts by celebrating others’ accomplishments online rather than nitpicking and chastising their flaws.
Differing opinions are a good thing in life, but remember that respect and common courtesy are essential to our existence. With that said, social media outdoorsmen, please mind your manners the next time you comment on a post. Our future may depend on it.