In my January Editor’s Log I discussed a proposal in Massachusetts to ban commercial fishing for striped bass. I posted a similar news item at TheFisherman.com when the story first broke, and shared the story to our Fisherman Facebook page. What followed in the comments section was not terribly surprising, but it was nonetheless disturbing. As I noted in the editorial, the striped bass is a polarizing species and it has a way of bringing opinions—both positive and negative—out of the woodwork. But what bothers me when subjects like this come up is how we in the fishing community publicly present ourselves.
As of last count I have been forced to hide more than two-dozen inappropriate comments from the “discussion” of this news story. Now do not get me wrong, I did not delete a single comment based on the merit of the statement. Unfortunately the edits were solely required because some of those people who were posting comments failed to consider who might be reading the discussion and they used inappropriate and/or threatening language. I am not a good-goody; I have no problem with the use of colorful language when it is appropriate, but to carry yourself on a public forum in a manner in which you come across like an uneducated Neanderthal harms us all.
Similarly, I am appalled at some of the videos and public posts made on social media by members of the fishing industry from tackle shop owners to captains to tackle reps to pro-staffers and more. It only took me making the mistake once of showing my 5-year-old son a “cool fishing video” without previewing it for inappropriate language before I learned my lesson. Let’s just say that I have lost a lot of respect for quite a few individuals within this industry for whom I would have hoped would carry themselves in a better way publicly.
But aside from my son hearing a curse word in a fishing video, what’s the big deal? Well, there is a lot more that goes into it. We as fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts are up against a lot of opposition on a day-to-day basis from the likes of PETA, waterfront landowners, miscellaneous environmental groups and so-on. We are often portrayed as blood-thirsty, beer-drinking, uneducated slobs with no regard for nature. While there are most certainly those among us who fit this description, I do not feel that they are in the majority. But again, as I noted above, when we attack each other in an open forum, or paint ourselves in a certain light, then what do we expect would happen?
An innumerable amount of positive comments and actions can easily be overshadowed by a single, negative statement. It also serves to divide us with infighting, making for an easier target to take down by the “antis.” We are feeding into a strategy of divide and conquer, but in reality we are ourselves making the division!
Sometimes it’s not the use of inappropriate language which, might cause an issue. Facebook and other examples of social media are now being used to aid in prosecuting of court cases. As an example of what can result from the posting of something rather innocent online, I will relay a recent story of which I was told. A video was posted to a Facebook page that showed an angler reeling-in a fish, only to have it attacked by a seal—a seemingly innocent action. The angler continued to reel-in the fish while it was in the seal’s mouth until the seal either lost its grip or it removed a bite from the fish. The captain and crew commented in awe at what they were seeing, but they did nothing to harm or further disturb the seal. Essentially they simply documented a process that occurs any number of times per day in our oceans around the world. A short time after the video was posted the local environmental police contacted the individual who posted the video, requesting it immediately be removed or charges of wildlife harassment might be filed. It was promptly removed, but it goes to show that members of many groups are watching us.
I live by the mantra to never post something online (or in print) that I would not feel comfortable saying to one’s face. I choose my words carefully and consider the repercussions for my actions. Remember that there is always a record of some sort of everything we do online; so, for the good of us all, please think before you post. You never know who might be watching.