Is Social Media Hurting Fly Fishing?
People will comment on this piece without even reading the article, knee jerk reactions, which is half of the problem. If you comment on this article, comment in all caps.
Social Media…. Seemingly the spawn of Satan itself to some, corrupting the minds of the youth, and empowering the elderly in ways they should never possess. Personally, I use social media, not to the extent that my peers do, but I still have a Facebook and Instagram. I teach at a University and see on a daily basis how social media is melting the minds of our kids (I’m only 28 and can see it clear as day), consuming their every waking moment. Who cares about them though, what about fly fishing? Has social media infiltrated our sacred headquarters and done more harm than good? I’m not quite so sure and I don’t think anyone has any empirical evidence to support either side, so I will try and shed light on both sides.
Fly fishing, once a sport revered for the socially or philosophical elite, has now stretched to a much broader audience. As younger generations become infatuated with their constant connection to others through social media posts, a new wave of fly fishers has graced us. A new aged angler, more worried about how the picture of a fish will come out than the journey it takes to catch one. This is undoubtedly a negative for the sport. Not only do these anglers put fish health at risk for a photo, they are missing the essence of fly fishing. To be enlightened and fulfilled, one must understand the essence of something and until they do, they won’t truly know enjoyment. However, for every Patrick Duke picking browns off redds for the brand ambassador shot, there are many accounts that I have encountered that use social media for good. Not utilizing social media as a means of connection, but as a tool for education.
A recent post by on Instagram by MaineWomenFlyFish features a quick 10s video by MaineFlyGuys on how to properly support a bass after removal from the water. A quick and informative tip that not everyone knows, as I frequently see people holding bass horizontally by the lip without support. Together, this video and its helpful information have reached almost 1500 people. Hopefully some of those people retain that information, and because of it, the fish are better off. Now, who would disagree that this explanatory use of social media is in poor taste? Anyone? So, this really brings me to the point, where I ask myself, why do people so adamantly hate mixing social media and fly fishing? Is it spot burning? No, the internet is to blame for that not social media (and there is a distinct difference). Or is it a knee jerk reaction to a new way, a new style, a new era of fly fishing? There is a regime shift occurring in the fly-fishing world and, as Mary Shelly proclaimed in Frankenstein, nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. Although there is no clear-cut answer to why the hate exists, I’ll attempt to explain why I, at times, hate it.
I hate social media at times because I see people who are bringing themselves to the forefront regarding fly fishing, when we the people should always be second to the fish. People need to get those likes, shares or comments, as if it’s a drug and it just might be. The notion of support via technological interactions sparks positive endorphins in the brain and chemical pathways are created that your body wants and needs to stay happy. So that Social Media Hero is posting to feel the rush of having followers, getting likes, etc. This, in my world, is unhealthy and almost nobody will admit they are afflicted with this need, and there lies the problem. People don’t know what they are doing is in poor taste or even worse, they know and don’t care. I feel a level of disrespect and sadness for the fish above all else. But does this answer my initial question, is Social Media actually hurting fly fishing or just hurting feelings of fly anglers?
I’m not sure it actually hurts fly fishing at all. Are there cases, such as the Duke example, of pulling fish off redds for a photo, yes. But contrary, are there not cases, like the informative bass video, where it will help the fishery, yes. So are the scales even? More so, I believe social media inspires passionate feelings. Yes 100%, good or bad, there is no denying an intensified passion exists due to social media. However, what measurement can we use to determine fishery health based on social media use? Fly fishing seems, based on pictures, to be at an all-time high regarding participation, and the fishing has never been better (I mean, I know it has been, but relatively and generationally speaking). So, does social media actually hurt fly fishing or just the feelings of fly anglers? I’d have to side with the latter (I understand there are specific instances, but I am talking about the whole). The younger fly-fishing generation has changed the way fly fishing is perceived within and outside of the angling community. So, I would say, no social media is not physically hurting fly fishing, nor the fish, but it is creating a social divide between fly fishers, as well as a new viewpoint from which fly-fishing is being pursued. My main take away from seeing fly fishing social media posts, if anything, is how poorly some people treat fish, that otherwise we wouldn’t have known. I don’t just sit back and snarl, I act, and take the opportunity to educate, in a respectful manner (everyone hates a keyboard warrior). Ignorance isn’t a reason to get man, repeated educated offenses is when you should get mad.
I know I use social media to help promote, educate, and inspire fly anglers, because I want the sport I love so dearly to flourish and continue, not only when I’m gone, but also while I’m still here. Whether you like it or not, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Because of the likelihood of existence, I find it incredibly energetically wasteful to spit at those using social media. It’s like throwing pebbles at a great wall and hoping it falls. We all agree, Social Media has its dark spots, just look at this picture. This fish was “released to fight another day.”
Is this a dark spot or a chance to provide a life-long lesson? Rather than shun social media and the fishers using it, take the time to educate, be productive, and have some fun with it. If you don’t use social media, then who cares, but don’t look down on something or consider it taboo if 1) you know nothing about how it works, and 2) nobody is better than anybody else, nobody is above anything. For those using social media, be fish cognoscente, put the fishery before yourself. Don’t hold onto a fish for 5 minutes to get your hero shot, how would you like it if I held you under water for 5 minutes to try and get a perfect underwater shot? So overall, I think social media inspires a lot of emotion, logical or not. At times, the things I have seen, make me believe social media is the end of all fisheries, but this is just a knee jerk reaction. After processing, analyzing, and re-processing, social media is not to blame for any fishery misuse, it’s still people. So, no, I don’t think social media is to blame for any decline in fisheries. I think ultimately, we all have free will, to choose to do something. Whether or not social media exists, we would still be making these choices, in probably the same fashion, we just wouldn’t be sharing them with the world, which might be even worse, how can you fix something you can’t see? Oh, don’t comment in all caps, that would be stupid.