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Skydiving in Social Media

Let’s get real here for a moment…like really, real.

I love skydiving – for obvious reasons.

I love social media – mostly because I work in this space all day and see the benefits, like keeping up on the latest information, staying in touch with friends, getting updates on products and services you enjoy.

I also hate social media. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to say I hate skydiving…not in the slightest. :)) Social media has done things to our society that I fear can’t be undone. Sure, we’re more connected than ever before, but I also believe we’re more lonely than we’ve ever been. Our idea of “community” has been altered. We’re walking down a path that’s slowly putting us out of touch with our humanity (yes, Weeds fans, I did steal that line from the show, but it’s true)!

What’s more is that it’s making us passive aggressive individuals. Instead of talking to people in person or taking someone aside to chat about an issue, we’re publicly calling people out. I’m seeing this more and more with skydiving related topics as well.

In the last week I’ve seen skydivers who have posted about switching from RW to freefly, another who posted about downsizing (which is always a hot topic and everyone has their opinions), and subsequently, I’ve seen “friends” of theirs put them on the spot with things like “you shouldn’t do that, you’ll get hurt,” or “you’re too inexperienced,” or “are you sure about that?”

All this does is put people on the defensive – after all, they were just called out in front of their friends and families in one of the most populated social media communities.

Thing is, I really don’t believe the people who are making these passive attacks see it this way. It’s genuine concern most of the time – which we as skydivers truly love! But if you take a step back and look at how these very public comments come across, the potential outcome probably isn’t what was intended. Think about it, if you were at the DZ, instead of online, would you stand up on the picnic table and yell to the guy who is talking to his instructor about freeflying, “hey, you shouldn’t do that, you’re not proficient on your belly yet, you’ll get hurt, or worse, you’ll hurt someone else!”

Of course not! That would embarrass them, and possibly even make you look like a jerk. Instead, you’d have a personal conversation to express your concern for that person and those with whom they share the sky. That’s just common decency…isn’t it?

As a skydiver, I love having the ability to use social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) to keep up with things that are going on in the industry – updates from USPA, manufacturers like PD and Infinity, getting links to the latest blog posts – and staying updated on my jumping buddies, where they’re headed for the weekend, staying in touch with those I’ve met in my travels, but when I see skydivers who have to get defensive because of someone who didn’t stop to think of the outcomes of a comment they could have sent privately, that starts to make me question how great these tools are after all.

Now don’t get me wrong here, this isn’t an attack on anyone who may have done something similar in the past. I believe everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, so I truly believe that most of these comments are not meant to publicly humiliate other jumpers, or to try to put someone in their place for the purpose of making them feel bad. That’s just not skydiver nature, as far as I’m concerned. We jump together, we beer together (yes, beer can be a verb), we chill around the bonfire together…hell, we do just about everything but sing Kumbaya together at the end of a great day of skydiving. Well, maybe if we’ve had enough of that beer I was referring to, but that’s an entirely different topic altogether.

Point being, I do honestly believe that everyone has the best of intentions in this sport, and those that don’t are quick to be outed by their own behavior. I blame social media for our ability to post anything and everything online and not think for a second that there’s anything wrong with that. But when it involves someone else, that’s when I think it’s time to take an extra second to review how your words could be perceived.

In the end, we’re all here to help each other out. So to the defenders: stop being so sensitive…they likely didn’t mean anything by it. It’s your decision if you want to freefly or downsize or BASE jump or whatever. Just make sure you’re being smart about it. To the antagonists: you’re probably not how your comments make you seem, you’re likely just concerned, but be sure it’s coming off that way, and not as “you’re an idiot, I’m smarter than you and a better skydiver than you so you better listen to me and so should all your friends who will see this post too.”

But then again, this is just my advice, which, given that this is a social media platform, could very well be taken as “skygod-ish” itself. ¬†Though I promise you, that is not my intent. From one skydiving, social media user to another….

Blue skies!