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If you catch a mess of fish and don’t post the pictures online, did it really happen?
That question came up one day after I cleaned a bunch of mangrove snapper without getting a photo first. For an instant, I felt a sense of deep regret. It was almost like this might be the last fish I ever caught and nobody would know about it.
Fortunately, reality set in and I reminded myself that the world would likely keep turning, even without that crucial information. Then it dawned on me how silly this whole concept would seem to my father. He spent as much time behind a pole as anyone I know, but I can’t remember a single picture of him holding a fish. His relationship with them was temporary. It ended with a good meal and was marked only by a pile of bones raked out under the fig tree. (Plus, I’m sure he figured there was a fine line between preserving memories and creating evidence.)
Then again, his only social media site was the counter at the Davis-Peacock Drugstore where he and his friends had coffee each morning. He didn’t need pictures because the people he would have shown them to had usually been there for the catching and eating. All his ‘likes’ were delivered in person. And he certainly didn’t need a ‘comments’ section because he was sitting in the middle of one.
But times have changed since then. Thanks to Facebook, nothing is official now unless we take pictures and launch them into cyberspace for the world to see.
That’s especially true for hunters and fisherman.
I think it’s because Facebook, for all practical purposes, is really just our high-tech version of painting on the cave walls like our ancestors did. They memorialized successful hunts and fishing trips by making crude drawings of the action. We do the same thing, only now it’s with a camera instead of paint, and with walls of electrons rather than stone.
So, yes, we’re sitting here with more computing power at our fingertips than NASA used to build the Apollo rockets, and the best we can do is imitate the work of people who hadn’t invented the wheel yet. Thousands of years of technological advancement has basically given us an easier, less artistic way of showing people that, at least for one day, we didn’t get skunked.
But what about the times when we do come up empty? If you’re like me, you just keep quiet or maybe post an old photo or funny story. I call it “creative discretion” and I suspect the cave dwellers did a lot of that too.
The reason I think so is because none of those ancient paintings depict hunters coming home with one squirrel between them. I’ve never seen a drawing where everyone is dropping their spears and high-tailing it away from a woolly mammoth. But you know it had to have ended that way more often than not.
I’m betting the rules were that if you came home dragging a saber-tooth tiger, the family would chow down, break out the art supplies and call it a party. But if all you brought back was a wood rat and some swamp cabbage, then maybe the fire went out early that night.
The idea was the same in both cases: If you don’t have pictures, did it really happen? Sometimes it’s fun to show the world what you did. Other times, it’s best just to do nothing and let folks wonder.
Hunters and fishermen can tell you that part hasn’t changed much at all.