Social media has changed the world. When I was young, it was a standard joke that grandfathers would tell stories about walking to school. You would hear: “When I was young I had to walk to school 2 miles every day, in blizzards uphill both ways”. Or at least something like that to show how easy our life was compared to growing up in a recent past.
I sometimes hear a more updated version along the lines of “when I was young, I had to walk to the library to do research”. The internet and now social media has changed many things about our life. My 82-year-old mother can tell you everything going on with her children and grandchildren as well as cousins and their families. She spends a couple hours a day reading social media and often sharing some of the things she finds.
For myself, I do not spend much time posting on social media. If I do post anything it is more likely about scuba diving. The same with anything I share. While I may have a few hundred “friends” on Facebook, some are family and only a handful are real friends and acquaintances in real life. Most of the latter group are also divers. Most of what I see on my news feed on Facebook and my twitter account is about diving, and a good portion of it is negative.
Negative Social Media with a Positive Impact
Social media and the internet in general often show scuba diving in a negative manner. The featured image of divers damaging coral has shown on dozens of websites with thousands of shares.
Sometimes the negative social media items will cause a wrong to be corrected. Early last year, social media showed a photograph of three Chinese scuba divers on a dive boat in Malaysia. The image had appeared on a Chinese social media page before being posted on Facebook and Twitter. The image was taken on a dive boat with the divers holding a turtle. It did not take long before there were tens of thousands of comments condemning the photograph, the actions of the divers and the dive operator. There was also some comments about various mothers and status of peoples birth but that was mostly an expression of outrage.
The video showed the name of the dive operator in the background. I talked to a PADI regional officer about the incident shortly after it surfaced. He said they had received over a thousand emails about the issue but basically there was little that PADI could do. They could revoke the dive resort’s accreditation but then they would have no influence.
The dive operator took to social media stating that the divemaster shown in the video had previously been fired before the video was shown on social media. The social media photograph also made it to the attention of the Malaysian government. They sent a team to the dive operator, padlocked the business and impounded the dive boat.
On the sad side, they also increased the restrictions for diving in the marine park where the incident took place and temporarily stopped all diving until the dive operators could meet the new requirements.
Other things get divers and other concerned Net-citizens riled up. A pair of teens riding a whale shark raised many concerns. In an interview the teens defended their actions, saying they did nothing wrong.
On a brighter side, another video has recently emerge where a diver paid some fisherman to release a whale shark they had captured. Kudos to the diver.
A recently published article from a travel website came to my attention when I was checking news and it also later showed in one of my social media accounts. The social media account had a number of negative comments about the article, most of which I fully agree with.
I do not want to promote the article and it is not my intention of attacking or insulting the writer. Basically the article was about how easy it was for him to become a certified diver in Grenada. He talked about taking the e-course before his trip. He stated he arrived late at night and the next morning went to the dive center. He said he took a written test, did one hour in the pool followed by two shore dives and was finished in time for lunch. The next morning two more shore dives.
I will just quote one line from the article:
“Less than 48 hours into my trip, I was a certified diver.”
If this was a referral, then yes I could agree that this was proper. However, from what the article said it did not seem like a referral. The comments from others also clearly did not think it was a referral.
We also see other things that are misleading. A Groupon ad (Groupon is a program where people buy vouchers for certain items or services at large discounts) for a Florida dive operator offered a very low price allowing an individual to become a certified diver in a single day. The ad made it seem like it was a full certification; however, it was a scuba diver certification not the open water diver certification that is what most divers associate with diving. None of the restrictions or limitations were mentioned. It also failed to mention if the student did not take an online course at an additional cost, they need to arrive at 5 am to take classroom training also at additional cost. Divers on social media pointed out the misleading items and the ads were stopped by consumer protection agencies.
While divers will react to these negative items and right the issues, they still place diving in a negative light.
We Need Positive Social Media
I often use search engines to find news articles about scuba diving. The majority of the searches are negative. Often they involve someone left behind, the death of a diver or relatives of a deceased diver suing someone. While scuba diving is safer than horseback riding, we do not always seem that way in the press and on social media.
I recently had a discussion with a new divemaster. She was telling me how taking an Open Water Diver course changed her life. The topic expanded to how it makes her feel when she is diving with novice divers and helping them learn and expand their own knowledge. We talked about her plans to become a instructor and of creating a blog to express her feelings and hopes to inspire others, especially young females, to learn to dive and become dive professionals.
Many, I dare say most, divers have a passion about diving. But I feel that passion is not as focused when compared to divers 15 to 20 years ago. There are so many things at our fingertips competing for our attention. Diving to many people is still not well known.
We need to help change the way outsiders see us. To create a better balance in what we see in the media. If we see something negative, such as the Grenada article, we should speak out. However, we have to do better explaining why it is wrong and how not to fall for the pitfalls out there.
To my fellow divers, I would like to suggest you each post something positive about each good dive you have. Let your social media friends know what diving means to you. Let us bring the balance of news articles away from the few deaths that happen and to the joy we experience. Let us bring more divers into this wonderful sport of ours.