Killing the Ritual
Social Media, its Necessity, and its Role in the Demise of the Experience of Things
On the tail end of my annual family steelhead camping trip, I can't help but sit here and think of the duality of things... for a couple of reasons.
1. The trip is over.... I can and most likely will go back alone or with my wife one more time, but this is one family outing I mark on the calendar a year out in advance. And it's now almost another year out from happening again.
2. In all the wetness and coldness of steelhead fishing in the PNW, I've come down with a bit of a cold. In the era of COVID, I cannot take this as lightly as I used to and keep pushing though work and being in public on a cycle of essential oils, supplements, and the occasional swig of NyQuil to help drift off to sleep/recovery... So I'm holed up in my room without much to do but ponder the ups and downs of life.
As a the owner and founder of a business....multiple businesses, I (like many of you) wear many hats. One of said hats is "Social Media Manager." My personal love/hate with having to post regularly on social media is no secret. I see the upside... the building of community...the sharing of ideas....the helping one-another attitude...the reaching of/marketing to people I never would have been able to reach a decade ago. But I also see the stink of it.... the comparison-itis... the less-than feelings.... the "this is how it has to/should be"....the feelings of inadequacy and semi spite for something I don't always want to do but feel like I have to do if I want to stay relevant and not be forgotten like yesterday's trashed take-out containers.
So it's a duality that I put up with. I know some of you love doing it and find endless entertainment in it. I know some of you feel similarly to me... that it's necessary and sometimes fun and sometimes not. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing all the amazing places, the amazing fisheries, the low-angle lift-and-drips and grip-n-grins the world can throw out there... the more the better. I love seeing how each individual has a different perspective on things, a different composition (or lack thereof...which is perfect individualistic flavor in and of itself!). I love seeing who likes a certain Insta-filter or who uses Adobe to burn and doge or who doesn't even give a damn and just posts every perfectly imperfect shot they can. I'd much rather see all of this than the massive amount of trash circulating out there.
But even in our sharing of the thigs we love there's something missing. There's some essence of the thing that's stripped away for a seemingly never ending highlight reel. I've had this little gnawing at the bottom left corner of my soul. I don't know why that spot, it just sounded like it made for better literature. But it's been there. And it's increasingly difficult for me to ignore. It's increasingly difficult for me to not deal with. It's increasingly annoying to the point where I almost feel like the instant gratification, get-a-hit-and-move-on, fleeting-ness of the Instagram life is stripping away the whole of the thing....that which encompasses the thing in it's entirety. It's stripping away the Ritual for the result like some secret diet pill that claims you'll get shredded by eating pizza and burgers and never setting foot in the gym. It's making John and Jane Q. Public think that the fish pic is the culmination of the thing and the goal and the way to show everyone else that you're legit. It's making us want to capture all the pics and vids to share and watch and relive later all the while forgetting to just experience the thing now...intentionally...as it's happening. And I'm not exempt.
But setting out with the goal of the perfect Instagram shot, or even just showing the world that shot and nothing but a string of said shots, is taking everything out of context. I felt such a kinship with Captain Jack Productions (@catpjackproductions) when they posted a photograph of a fly fisherperson soaked in boredom and beat by the sun and draping himself over the bow bar on a Cosmeledo flat. It's perfect. It got the point across. It's an amazing feat because of Captain Jack Productions' substantial following. What's interesting to me is that the likes on said post were lower than those of their so-called "fish porn" posts... grip and grins, massive golden dorado, taimen, tarpon and the like... which sheds light on the title of this essay.
I can say, from experience, that a similar story holds true for me. A grip and grin will undoubtedly gain much more attention in the IG feed than a mood shot or a photo (or series of photos) that tells more of a story. By far. The whole thing is on par with the notion that we've become so very easily distracted as a society. We're often unintentional about our actions. New tech is always a blessing and a curse.... the light and the dark... the Jedi and the Sith.
So....what to do about it? Well, as with everything else in life... I can get loud and join the cacophony of cancel culture, crying foul, and general victimhood... which seems to me (from experience) an awful waste of time and a good way to give your power to others... OR, I can clean up my side of the street. I can choose my alignment, my best course of action, my Downstream path and follow it to a destination called Creating-My-Own-Happiness.
I'm choosing the latter. I'll choose good feelings and aligned action any day. Often, the hard part is that the other way is generally deeply learned and intrenched in our subconscious. It's not usually a quick fix. Or it can be, if we let it. Up to us. Point is that... publicly stated... I am choosing to follow my path and keep working in my power and the strengths of social media... I'll choose to side-step the pitfalls and the misaligned action...the attention seeking...the miracle diet pill. I may loose interest from some. Or many. But, in time, I'll find new connections with others who are aligned with my bliss.
I may stumble... I have old habits to break. But I'll be able to recognize...acknowledge... and readjust my path. I can do this again and again...at any time... with unlimited tries. A stumble doesn't mean failure... It means I'm continuing to learn and align... which is the point of life.
Cheers to living in the flow!