I am not going to win any prizes for originality or extreme cleverness with regards to what I have to say on the subject. But, having used a variety of forums and social networks over the past 7 years with regards to the outdoors, I do have a few thoughts.
Like a lot of 30 & 40-something people who enjoy the outdoors, I “rediscovered” it as a passion after a period of relative abstinence. I did a huge amount of walking and camping (and cycle camping) throughout my teens and early 20’s. However, work (after the college years), buying houses, developing a career (nightschool) and finally kids, slowly put paid to regular outings. I cant remember an actual date or period in time, but by my early thirties I was reduced to the odd day walk and no camping. Then out of the blue, when I got into my mid thirties, I began to get a form of wanderlust and started reading magazines like TGO and Trail. My walking picked up a bit and I started updating my kit (which it has to be said was looking a bit sorry for itself). In fact, I updated my kit alot and thus began a bit of an addiction in itself (but that is a story in itself for another time!).
Now all this was fine and dandy and I would probably continued bimbling along with this enhanced but not completely focussed love for the outdoors had it not been for a chance google search one day. I cant remember what I searched for, but right at the top of the tree was a funny website called Outdoors Magic. I browsed it, joined it and slowly found out that there were actually thousands of other people out there with similar thoughts and aspirations for the outdoors. This and the fact that they werent all just a bunch of red-socked bobble hat wearers too (well mostly). Not wanting to limit my horizons, I soon joined the TGO (The Great Outdoors) forum then shortly afterwards the Trail (sorry LFTO or Live For The Outdoors) forum.
What struck me in those early days was the enthusiasm, passion and great sense of fun they all engendered in me (and to my eyes a lot of other too). It felt like the first week of college over and over again. Of course time moves on and along came Facebook, which although not a forum, was a social networking site that allowed likeminded people to seek each other out. Not as dedicated to the outdoors but still a very good tool for connecting with people. So, 5 years ago I found myself spending huge amounts of time on these sites, making friends, getting advice for walks and gear. I started camping again with gusto, walking with complete strangers and visiting mountain areas I had never been to. Those were fun years where nothing appeared too much in terms of outdoor aspirations and achievements. I do look back on those times fondly, almost like an age of innocence. In fact thinking about some of the stituations and conversations had in those days, has me creased up in a heap on the floor, eyes streaming with genuine laughter.
Things change however, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. I started to shun one or two forums as they became littered with overly competitive people trying to score points off each other or have “flame wars”. I became more discerning (some might say growing up). The other thing that started to become apparent was the arrival of the blog. Now if you are reading this, you are very well aware of what they represent (obviously – d’oh). Some people vilify them as a shallow attempt to making oneself feel important. Some people (me included) think they are an important media for connecting with likeminded people. After all, if you dont like what someone is writing, then you dont go back and they write their prose to an audience of static and silence.
So into the last 12 months and the “newest” social network on the scene being Twitter. I must admit that I didnt “get it” when I first joined. I posted a few things, followed a few people and then was vaguely disappointed when nothing happened. I went back to blogging. Then my only remaining outdoor forum started to pale as well (Outdoors Magic). A lot of the interesting articles dried up, trolls were seen under bridges and on mountain sides and things started to go downhill. I went back to Twitter and found that like anything worthwhile, you have to persevere with it. Engage with people, treat them nicely and always try to have fun. I have to admit that the past 6 months on Twitter has been hugely enjoyable (one or two moments aside). I have connected with more people on this format that any other in the past. I dont know what the secret is and I dont know if it will last but I do recognise it as a very good site for networking. I really hope it continues and even if it doesnt, I know I will at least continue blogging for a long time.
So, what’s the purpose of the post? Just some rambling musings that I thought I would put into words. I would like to thank all the people I have connected with over the past few years, some of whom I have met for real and count as valued friends. I hope everyone out there gets as much enjoyment from whatever online forum or networking site they ascribe to, as I have and continue to do. And if you dont like or agree with what I have written, then you can send me back to the ether with a mere mouseclick. I wont mind 🙂
Keep walking, keep camping and keep posting guys and gals.