I have a question for you; is your social media content a by-product of your outdoor activity or is it the motivation for your outdoor activity?
You see, many people now measure the success of their day out as much by online adoration as they do by actual personal achievement. They say things like “I went up Skiddaw for the sunset last night, I got 400 likes.” Don’t laugh; believe me, it really does happen folks.
So, if you've returned from your day out and you find you've got a couple of good images on your camera, is it enough for you to write an accompanying line, stick it on social media and walk away? Or are you one of those whose day out is planned around gathering social media content; getting up and out to capture the inversion in time to post it for the 8am prime time slot? In the evening are you parking at Honister and racing up Grey Knotts or sitting by the coast until 9pm to get that perfect shot of the sun setting in the west ready for the supper time read through? Hurriedly editing your image on your smartphone to get it out that night, for, as Ralph McTell will testify, “Yesterday’s paper tells yesterday’s news”.
Perhaps you’re reading this sat upstairs in Abraham’s café trying to digest the concept of prime time slots, but please once again, believe me, I kid you not. You see an image posted on Twitter at 8am is 800 times more likely to succeed than one posted between 10am and 12 noon, and you can forget posting when Poldark is on it’ll get you nowhere. It’s not until Romeo and Juliet are divvying up the duvet and reaching for their tablets will you get a warm reception at bedtime.
I could wriggle out of this by saying I’ve always taken photographs when I've been on the hill, and I wouldn’t be lying, but I don’t deny that since the rise of social media I have in truth been dragging myself out my bed in the morning chasing the weather and purposely trekking round the Gable Girdle at the right time of day to get a silhouetted shot of the Sphynx Rock. I put my hand up. Guilty as charged.
I went to see Stuart Maconie just along the way at the Theatre by the Lake a few weeks back. In his book ‘Never Mind the Quantocks’ the broadcaster and, of course, author - a man I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of chatting with in person - encourages us to ‘Tick off a list’. Not necessarily fells, it could be rivers, canals even teashops. I’d add tarns to that list. Stuart himself, almost as soon as he’d taken up fell walking, resolved to complete the Wainwrights and, as he rightly says, “It gives you a galvanising sense of purpose, helps you plan and encourages you to discover and explore new places”.
Stuart is of course quite correct. The adage I hear from colleagues and customers is, “It (doing the Wainwright’s) takes you to places you might never have gone to”. Now isn’t this the same for social media? If the hope of online adoration has you at the stone circle for sunrise or on Scafell at sunset that can only be a good thing surely?
As John Lennon and Elton John quite rightly sang in 1975; “Whatever gets you through the night, it’s alright”. Well, I say; whatever gets you up the hill… it’s alright!