The Great Debate: Is Social Media Ruining the Outdoors?
For the past few years I have read blog posts and editorials written about the negative impact social media has had on nature and in particular, secret outdoor locations. These articles have been regurgitated throughout the hiking, biking and climbing world and it is no different in the fishing industry. “Social media and the Internet have ruined all of the secret spots,” their argument crows, resembling more a grumpy curmudgeon than a concerned angler. The “get-off-my-lawn” rants are far more troublesome than they are productive, creating a tense dichotomy between all anglers. The fishing sphere is changing and they would much rather sit at the desk and complain than jump in the boat and adapt.
Social media is an amazing tool, not for sharing cat videos or your cousin’s baby pictures, but for the spread of information and the advancement of knowledge. If there’s a new fishing technique I want to learn, I can find a video on YouTube, if I want to know the water clarity at a lake forty miles away, I can simply make a forum post! Gone are the days of phonebooks, we’ve got smart phones, goodbye to scrapbooks, Instagram is here, newspapers are going digital because of Facebook and Twitter. It has caused every aspect of life to change, from where advertisers spend their money to the jobs at local media networks, why would the fishing world be any different? Social media can be an incredible thing if you use it responsibly and you’re willing to embrace it.
The past few years Lake McConaughy has done just that, amping up their social media campaigns and creating ilovelakemac.com. As a result, 2016 saw the largest visitor attendance in the last twenty-five years and pushed it to the 2nd most visited tourist destination in Nebraska, only behind Henry Doorly Zoo. Lake Mac showcased the big fish caught and the white sand beaches and guess what? It worked exactly like they had hoped. They boosted their visitor numbers and the great fishing continued.
Social media is not the enemy; it is the scapegoat. It is easy to blame social media after pulling up to a favorite hot spot only to see it congested with unrecognizable boats. People try new spots because boats are present, they read something somewhere, or they saw something on social media, and a billion other different reasons. Isn’t that part of being a seasoned angler, is using all of the information available? To say that because of social media all of your spots are unfishable and that they are receiving irreparable negative impact is a vast overgeneralization and unfair targeting. I have heard tales of lakes being overfished and ruined simply due to a couple of loudmouth drunks at the bar, and that was way before the invention of social media. Causation does not imply correlation.
As mentioned before, this comes down to self-responsibility and being informed, not what fish to post and what not to post. If I post a picture of a 10-lb walleye from Lake McConaughy, sure there may be one or even one hundred fisherman traveling to the lake next weekend. But will all of them catch fish? Will all of them keep fish? Or will they all spend money at the restaurants, gas stations and cabins around the lake and support the small economy? Those are easy answers, and so is this one.
Posting videos and pictures of your catch to your followers does not make you a martyr or a “whore”, as some fellow fishermen seem to think. This misinformed stereotype creates a dangerous dichotomy among fisherman and splits us apart. Fishing is supposed to unify everyone and the water should bind us, not divide us. Next time you’re on the water, don’t let a biased stereotype ruin your day, take in the weather, crack a beer and enjoy your favorite pastime.