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Gretchen
GRETCHEN
STEELE

Through the Lens

The Name and Shame Game

Wed, July 13, 2016

Yesterday I was out running my traps, when I received a text pointing out a particularly unpleasant Facebook post that centered around naming and shaming a fellow outdoors person. I shook my head at yet another instance of the outdoor world using social media to be judge, jury and executioner.

Oh Holy Crap, what did I just say?

I’d better change up that “running my traps” language immediately. I’ll be the next one that someone screen shots, videos, photographs via a poor cell phone snap, and the next one to be called out on social media for my great wrongdoing and violation of some law – real or imagined.

The phrase “running my traps” is semi local, colloquial, phrase that means out roaming – checking on friends, stopping at fishing holes, scouting birds, just wandering around – I wasn’t out actually checking a trap line. 

BUT

I can just about guarantee you some person would read this, and immediately jump to the conclusion that I am illegally running a trap line in Illinois in July. Social media would be warned about me – I would be called out as a law breaker, some sort of fiend. The pitchforks and torches would come out and the herd mentality takes over.  Like as not the self-righteous self-appointed judge, jury and executioners would even share my address, what I drive, where I fish and hunt – encouraging others to harass me when they see me.

THIS HAS BECOME A DAILY OCCURANCE IN MANY OUTDOOR SOCIAL MEDIA GROUPS.

The internet naming and shaming follows a fairly predictable path; Someone posts their outrage, along with a call to take this person down and like a fish feeding frenzy, others quickly jump in in an effort to prove to the rest of the world that are certainly not a type who will tolerate any of this nonsense. Then come the memes, the creative cut and paste, the posts are filled with social media juries. Inevitably there will be follow up posts where the accused tries to explain, tries to clear their name, but finds they are only further vilified and shamed. Screams of “Call the authorities!” “Feed them to lions!” “I’ll find them and personally show them justice”  echo through the cyber world.

“Call the Authorities.” Isn’t that what we should be doing in the first place? Skip the social media name and shame and simply report the activity to the appropriate authority. Let the situation be investigated by those who are trained to do so.

That won’t happen though, because the online judge, jury and executioners wouldn’t get to feed their ego that way. The name and shames couldn’t publicly pat themselves on the back prove to the world how they are a much better person.  They are on point when in the outdoors and rather than report an instance of a possible fish and wildlife code to the appropriate authorities – They snap a few cell phone photos, take a quick cell phone video, and start their own method of “seeking justice” via social media.

We have become a society that can’t think beyond 140 characters and a meme. We take every character typed, every photo posted, every sentence uttered as an opportunity to find fault and be offended. We have become a name and shame society via social media.  Quite frankly many days I feel like I am living in the era of the Inquisitions or the witch burnings.

To quote a witty friends recently inspiring Facebook post “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride” is running rampant.

I’ve come to the conclusion that people no longer care about civil discourse, differing opinions or fact checking. Let’s just fall into the click bait headline trap – blindly share, and pass on the horror or offense of the day.

Because, well it makes folks feel so good about themselves. It proves what high moral standards they hold themselves to, it proves that they are -  SO. MUCH. BETTER.
It also proves critical thinking skills are clearly at an all-time low, and the self-involved it’s ALL about me, look how wonderful and perfect I am set has this name and shame thing down to fine art.

And they feel so damn good about it.

The name and shamers feel great pride in being the one who exposed the theoretical bad behavior; they don’t want to know the facts; they don’t want to know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

They want the world to see how absolutely great, moral, ethical and offended that they are. They want to be heralded as such great outdoorsmen and women. Those name and shame posts scream “look, see, I rode in on my white horse and made sure everyone knows what a law breaking, degenerate is loose out there.  I am so far above this.”  When in reality they are simply trying to build themselves up by tearing down someone else.

Because clearly, taking one photo of person standing next to a lake or in a deer stand, taking one sentence from an interview, one paragraph from a blog, or one photo shared and turning it to a “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride” comment fest on their social media accounts makes them the star for the day.

I see social media posters gleefully delight in the fact that they have gone viral with their take down of often innocent people, or how they were successful in driving a person out of hunting, or keeping them away from a lake or river. “They’ll never show their face in ______again. Now all the respectable sportsmen and women know what a horrible person ___is.”  I have even seen posts where various groups encouraged finding an alleged violator and using violence. 

Whatever happened to the day when if we saw someone we thought might be violating a fish and wildlife law, we simply called a CPO and reported it. Who are we to be the judge, jury and executioner?

Oh yes – and here is where all the free speechers will jump in –  you watch. It’s their God given right, we live in country of free speech, I can say whatever the hell I want.  That’s true – to a point. That’s also why slander and libel laws exist. Please don’t make me drag out the whole shouting fire in crowded theater example.

But then again isn’t that exactly what the social media judges, juries, and executioners are actually doing? Isn’t the whole internet shame fest mentality just an online version of yelling fire in crowded theater?

Let’s stir up the crowd, get out the torches and pitchforks and see just how much mayhem we can actually achieve. The more we achieve the bigger social media celebrity we become. The more damage we do to some unsuspecting person, the higher our status is elevated.

Consequently, I see more and more thinking people just walking away from social media. It is just too tiring to wade through feeds full of utter crap. Thinking people who really have never been into that whole herd mentality thing to begin with.

And that’s sad – because social media can be a great tool, a great way to exchange ideas and information.

And now here we are – the whole post I had planned (about berries, and fish, and the wonder of walking through the summer prairie in July) has flown out the window and I have to start that whole project over again because I got side tracked thinking about a world that’s full of social media “stars” who’s greatest talent seems to be making posts full of “passive-aggressive, slightly vicious yammering and self-righteous pride”.

Guess I need to go “run my traps” again this morning and find that inspiration all over again.

Comments

Cannot agree more Gretchen. Fact is most if not all of these people could not walk up to somebody, look them in the eye and tell them their opinion of their actions but they can hide behind the phone or the keyboard and say it all day. We are a society of technical cowards.

Posted by Baba ORiley on July 13

Everybody needs to read this.  I get so sick of people trying to trash someone’s business ect on social media. It becomes a pile of vultures on a corpse, a true white trash frenzy.

Posted by Chupacabra Crappie on July 14

Could not agree more.  I’m growing tired of keyboard commandos

Posted by Lasrael on July 16

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