So, in case you’re not aware, I’m active on a couple of social networks. Twitter, as @SWBCrawler, and Facebook at SWBCrawler. I’ve been around a while, an eternity as online communication goes. I’ve also been interested in IT and Computers for most of my life. I was playing games on my dad’s TI before I could read. I work in IT, as a System Administrator. Thats how I’m able to run this very web site without spammers and asshat’s overrunning it. The point is, I witnessed the infancy of online communication. From email, to BBS’s, to message forums, to social networking. I’ve been part of all of these phases. So I’ve been a part of this “Social Networking” scene since before it existed in its current state. One thing has always plagued this medium. Anonymity.
When you’re forced to look someone in the eye, you generally pick your battles. If you’re arguing about something that’s truly close to your heart, you stand your ground, but if its something relatively meaningless, you’ll likely let it pass. Because in person, there are consequences. You look like an idiot if you start arguing over grammar with the stranger next to you in line at the auto store, or if you’re calling them a nazi because they drive a Volkswagen. When you’re protected by this screen of anonymity, and the distance usually associated with this vast global network we call the Internet, you strangely find yourself arguing over the most idiotic things, and calling out others on their grammar, spelling, or even proper punctuation! When you can’t find a good thing to attack, you make something up based loosely on fact. Like some generalization about their choice in vehicle, family, even race.
This isn’t coming out very off-road related is it? Hang on, I’m getting there.
I recently had an interaction on Twitter, that sort of inspired this blog post. It all started with the following picture.
It was shared by @Jeep Porn, a twitter account dedicated to sharing pics of Jeeps that are nice to look at. This particular pic was a user submission. It’s a nice pic! Honestly, what appears to be a pretty stock LJ Rubicon out having some fun with his buddies. That’s cool, we’ve all been there. I noticed a problem though. Go look at it again. No one appears to be wearing a seat belt, and the dude in the back is practically hanging out of the jeep, apparently interested in his iPhone. I made what I thought was an amusing comment, which brought attention to the dangers of wheeling without your belts on. You can read it on twitter here.
A short while later, the backlash began. Apparently the kid who submitted the pic saw my comment, and didn’t like it very much. My intention was to point out, in a light-hearted way, the lack of safety in the pic, he apparently took it as a direct attack. He called me names, insulted my “Junk Jeep” (guess he doesn’t like YJ’s? or was it my JK that he was attacking? No idea), and eventually just reverted to questioning my sexuality. Apparently all of these things somehow related to his inability to wear a seat belt? I admit, I fired back, first trying to call attention to my years in the sport, and what a bad idea it was to wheel with no belts on, and later correcting his spelling (it was pretty bad) and accusing him of being childish for the direct insults. It was so hard to resist. After he called me a “fagit” I decided it was enough, and I don’t intend to respond again. Except maybe to send him a link to this blog post. 😉
So, I’m not writing this out of some internal need to vent about my little twitter quarrel, it’s actually because I wanted to bring to light two issues. One, is safety, and the other is petty bickering on the internet! I’m getting tired of all of the accusations and arguments amongst a group of people who all share the same passion! I’ve seen arguments over the dumbest things! Two door vs. four door, automatic vs. standard, rocks vs. mud, hard top vs. soft top! The bottom line is, we’re all members of these various communities because we share a common like. Jeeps, or off-road in general maybe. There’s groups who actively oppose us. Closing trails and making us look like destructive party animals who care nothing for the land that our beloved trails are on. Maybe, just maybe, we should be focusing our attention on those who attack us, and not each other.
On the safety note. Seat belts are restrictive, uncomfortable, and just an outright burden. It feels great to ride without one. Nothing cutting into your neck, or restricting your hips. All that said, deal with it, they are absolutely necessary, and can and will save your life in the event of a roll-over. The kid who posted that pic was obviously just out having fun, and wanted to share what he thought was a cool picture, and it is a cool picture. Sure, the terrain they’re on doesn’t look all that treacherous, but it’s pretty damn easy to get in over your head in something like a rubicon. All that low gearing and added traction, makes it really easy to crawl right into trouble, and if you’re inexperienced, right on to your roll-bar, or worse. Have fun, that’s what the sport is all about, test your limits, look cool for twitter pictures, but DO IT SAFE! You’ll never become an old hat experienced wheeler if you’re dead at 19 because of some silly mistake that cost you big time.