Social Media and Survival—The Pros and Cons 

With an ever growing population and the vast expansion of our communities, we have been forced to find new ways to connect each other so that this modern isolated world we’ve created of cubicles and computer screens, can seem more welcoming.  This connection we seek is paramount to our survival as social creatures.  However, the channels in which we use most for our connection and information exchange comes with a cost. Everyday there seems to be a hot new social media platform.  With this steady flow, and the billions of people that are all but addicted to them, like it or not, they are here to stay.  With near- endless masses of people uploading YouTube videos, or anxiously waiting for the next Facebook post to hit, it is made clear that we are now bound by this form of technology as we are the air we breathe and water we drink.  With these outlets now establishing themselves in the outdoor community, it is time we examine 3 major points of influence and flush out the pros and cons of this online insurrection.   

  1. The Showcasing of New Gear 

PRO: “Tell Me You Saw That?”   

The one thing that social media platforms excel at is the showcasing of brand new gear. From simple pictures on Instagram, to full on video reviews, our access to see the newest gear available on the market is limitless.  This is especially important to the conscientious shopper.  If you are like me, and have a very tight budget, the ability to watch, witness, and/or read reviews from around the world is a priceless commodity in regards to your final purchasing decisions.  Furthermore, watching free online coverage of the major industry shows, SHOT/BLADE- allows you to see all of this exciting new knives, tools and gadgetry getting ready for release.  This can also save you precious dollars by witness your favorite makers unveiling that wonderful new item that matches more closely to what you have been looking for. One quick tip that has helped me, is to streamline the number of online channels you subscribe to before the events even start.  This way, through the content that they choose to upload, it will pre-filter the type of gear you will be subjected to.  Finally, not only does the overall coverage allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, but you don’t have to travel any farther than your computer to do so.     

CON: “Buyer Beware” 

There are two major traps that are commonly set within the onslaught of social media marketing.  The  word marketing is used purposefully because that is truly what it is.  Always keep in mind one true fact, everyone has an agenda.  First of which are the marketing teams and company salesmen that are focused on one thing– separating you from your money by convincing you that you “NEED” this tool.  This is absolutely to be expected.  Your job however is to make the hard and fast decision before entering the shark infested waters of, “What is it that I ACTUALLY need?  Salesmen will do all they can to lead you away from this.  The easiest and most prolific tactic is to blur the lines of reason.  How many times have you seen or heard something like, “this is the perfect bushcraft, survival, edc, multipurpose camp knife to ever be created!”?   Unfortunately, statements just like this abound. Sadly, by merely stating the hottest keywords, and then having them repeated over and over again by online reviewers(which we’ll discuss next), they hook into our fears and capitalize on the false notions of the all-elusive one tool option that will save us from everything!  Be steadfast and hold true to the two oldest sayings about cars—“If it is too good to be true, it is!” and more importantly “Never be the first to buy the newest model.”  Because as with all things, there are changes to be made and defects to be worked out.  The second trap, and the one that may be much harder to spot, is the most dangerous of all.  Just as marketing teams try to attract you, online reviewers try to attract marketing teams.  Showcasing the newest gear, especially that which is fresh of the showroom floor and not on shelves yet, is one of the best ways to increase subscribership and gain more views.  Now there are several trustworthy reviewers, however there are 3 questions to ask yourself while watching a review: 

  1.  How did the reviewer attain the item?—(are they truly invested)  
  1. Does the reviewer, through direct sales, or even amazon links, receive any monetary compensation for the sale of that item? 
  1. Are they adding in any new information or analysis that hasn’t been directly regurgitated from the company? 

Poising these three questions will help cut through the theatrics of salesmanship and help you make an informed decision.  Regrettably, there has been a growing wave of self-feeding rhetoric in the outdoor community, especially since the demonetization of YouTube.  More and more review based channels are partnering with gear companies and shopping platforms like Amazon, to not only receive free gear, but to receive compensation for stimulating sales.  An even faster growing trend is the eliciting of money from supporters through avenues like Pateron, that directly funds their “review” efforts. Both of these tactics are a little questionable at best. Firstly, though there are plenty of morally incorruptible people out there, it is not hard to believe that others could easily overpraise, or worse, falsely praise an item in the hopes you buy it.  Your purchase is their gain. Secondly, in terms of the latter, and I am all for supporting community HOWEVER, you must understand that you are already supporting these channels with your viewership and “likes”.  They already receive the aforementioned free gear because of those that subscribe to them.  The higher the number of subscribers and the community authority that this allows them, the more attractive they become to companies. Hence the vicious circle continues.   Your money should be used on buying your own gear, not someone elses. 

2.  All Skill Levels Displayed 

PRO: “EVERYONE IS WELCOME”  

It is always less stressful, and thus more enjoyable, to learn at your own pace. Since the online world hosts millions of people showcasing their skills, it is refreshing to be able to connect to ones that are just like you.  No longer do you have to feel dominated by the overlords of subject matter and perhaps suffer their cynicism and critique.  With channels ranging from the very basics to the well advanced, you can gather information at your pace all the while openly conversing with those who share your same struggle.  Plus, by not having to adhere to a strict learning pedagogy, you can pick and choose what you find most interesting and therefore accelerate your learning curve.   

CON: “BEWARE THE FALSE PROPHETS”   

 In your quest to build and expand your outdoor skills toolbox, be sure that you are listening to, and surrounding yourself by, the right people.  Information on social media ranges from the masterful, to the downright dangerous.  Seemingly, most everyone above 1000 subscribers is an “expert.”  This is far from the case. In reality, any tried and true expert that is not busy teaching in the backcountry, will be the first to openly resound the last great statement of Michelangelo—“ANCORA IMPARO”- I am still learning!  No one knows everything.  There is also no “only way” of doing things.  If we agree that true survival takes improvisation and adaption, than those that adhere strictly to the “one way” will most certainly perish first…(just go through their pockets and carry on)  Remember, it is all relative and all subjective.   Gather information and then test it yourself.  Does it work for you?  Great!  Put your faith in those that you can tell have really gone out there(not just the backyard), tried it, failed at it, and then go back out there again and again testing new ideas and new concepts constantly honing and improving their skills.  These are the people that can help you the most!  

3.  Finding Your Circle 

PRO: WELCOME HOME   

There may be no better feeling than being understood.  In a world that is growing more isolating by the second, finding a group of likeminded people can be an island of refuge all to itself.  Facebook and Group forums are an excellent resource for connecting with others that share and spur your passions.  Plus, connecting inside of a specific group, allows for a better sense of community and an easier more direct route of communication.  Most importantly of all, since everyone is more intimately connected, it should reduce the online trolls that mock those with real questions or new ideas. Therefore, the group dynamic can truly help educate and clarify any issue that you may have.  It provides a likeminded sanctuary and hopefully a well spring of people to turn to for solid information. 

CON: BEWARE THE MAN OF ONE BOOK 

The old adage, “beware the man of one book” is the only downside of these closed off forums and group platforms.  People can become so entrenched in the major group belief that any new information is automatically beat down and put asunder before it has a chance to enlighten. For growth to occur, new stimulus must be added.  Make sure that you do not get consumed by the groupthink mantra and are always open for other ways of thinking.    

No other time in history has information been so accessible.  With a few select keywords and a simple click of the mouse, you can be brought immediately to doorstep of Australian Bush Camping or into the mountains of Japanese Tenkara.  With this access comes the eye opening appeal of new gear, new skills, and new people to learn from.  However, to everything there is a turn.  With the rapid and almost overwhelming flow of information and opinions, the door swings wide open to welcome false feelings of “need” and the despair and ugliness of people caused by ignorance and jealousy.  So too does our natural inclination to live vicariously through those we idolize, leave us vulnerable to the deception and powerful enchantments of greed.  Just be careful out there my internet my friends.  For that beautiful open water of the web is teaming with sharks.  

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