I am a lot of things, mainly a father, husband, friend, hunter, conservationist and I’d like to believe, a thinker. One thing I am not, however, is a media expert. I know some media experts and I’ve learned a thing or two from them, but I think the thing that matters when it comes to the future of media and social media is human behavior, which I do know a little bit about, and I believe the technical aspects will follow human behavior.
We used to live in a world where we could hold our beliefs fairly privately, go to the voting booth and not tell people who we voted for. That same world allowed us to learn from our mistakes without, for the most part, screwing up our entire life or reputation. Unfortunately, those days are gone and they’re not coming back.
Examples of this are in our newsfeed every single day. Sometimes, the crime is egregious, such as Michael Richards being recorded saying a word he shouldn’t have used. I understand why people were upset at that, however, earlier this week, a professional baseball player was questioned about a five-year-old social media post in which he supported the 2nd amendment. He had to give the obligatory, “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” but refused to back down from his support of the Constitution.
Those of us involved in hunting, or most of us anyhow, are always involved in two hot button issues: guns and hunting.
The world is now such that if you were to go apply for a job, you could be denied because there’s a photo of you teaching your child how to safely shoot a gun on your Facebook page. All that needs to happen is there to be someone in Human Resources who is anti-gun or a vegan. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but that’s the world we now live in. Some of us, we choose to be outspoken about our rights, our passions and we’re not afraid of the consequences. I honor and respect that choice and it’s a choice I’ve made myself. I applied for a ton of jobs in the time we’ve lived in Colorado and didn’t even get a phone call for about a dozen that I was perfectly suited for. Is it because of my social media presence? I can’t say for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was in at least a few cases.
Another recent issue is social media censoring or banning conservative content. I keep hearing conservatives say, “Why won’t a billionaire conservative step up and create a platform that honors free speech?”. It’s a good question, it really is. The good news for outdoors enthusiasts is that some non-billionaires have stepped up to the plate and created a platform for us, it’s called GoWild.
GoWild is more than just guns, hunting and fishing. It encourages you to share your gardening, hiking, ATVing and other experiences as well. They want to see you and your kids outside. It’s also a place where you can share without worrying about hate mail and threats from those who disagree with you. If someone is not into hunting, the way the app works, they’ll probably not see your picture unless they’re following you. If you don’t like a picture you see, you scroll right past it. However, if you see something you don’t agree with, the folks at GoWild encourage its users to talk about it in the comments. Maybe it’s a new hunter or a young kid and no one told them what they’re doing isn’t ethical. Instead of having them banned or saying nasty things to them, we (the users) encourage them to think about what they’re doing and to make better decisions in the future. They’re trying to keep some of the old school mentality of using mistakes as an opportunity to grow and be mentored rather than an opportunity to shame the person.
One of the cooler things about the app is the ability to connect with folks outside your core group. While most of us hunters prepare for hunting season all year long, the things we do also overlap into other hobbies. We backpack, canoe, target shoot, train our bodies, and just generally love being outdoors. We also appreciate the responsibility of producing our own food and often have gardens. These other activities, the way the app is built, allow us find common ground with other folks who might not be hunters. This is of the utmost importance, because as I and many others have written, we’re about 5% of the population and both hunters and animal rights activists are small minorities fighting for the approval of the vast majority.
So, the question is, are you going to focus your social media energy on apps owned by California urbanites who are trying to control what you see and hear so that it fits their agenda or are you going to engage with others in the outdoor community in a way that grants you the freedom to share what you choose to share? I’m not saying you should leave Facebook or Instagram, those are still great places to be connected to people personally and professionally and share parts of your life, I’m simply asking if you want to be a part of the solution to the attacks on our lifestyle and be a part of growing the next generation of conservationists?
We might be waiting for a long time for a place of political free speech on social media, but for a place where you can share your grip ‘n grins without fear of death threats on your family, the future is now.
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way professionally involved in GoWild other than as a user. I do know a couple folks from the company and they are based in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky so I would be a big supporter of them even if they had a knitting app because I’m always supportive of good people doing good things. However, my passion for their product and the community it fosters is legitimate and I encourage anyone reading this to go to Apple, Google or wherever you download apps and give it a try and I also recommend checking out their podcast, Restless Native.