Fear and Loathing on the Internet 20 Years Later, Where are We Now?

by Jon Kieren

The internet played an important role in the dive industry over the years.  Whether its equipment sales, connecting groups of dive buddies to discuss favorite dive sites or debate skills and gear configurations; most of the time the internet has an overall positive influence on the industry.   The internet allows divers from all corners of the globe to connect and share ideas, opinions, and promote all aspects of the sport in a positive light. 

Of course, there are always exceptions. 

I recently came across a few of these exceptions while digging through the archives looking for examples of how the internet had a negative impact on the industry for some upcoming projects here at SDI/TDI/ERDI HQ, one example I found was a bit of a “doozy.” 

Years before I “came of age” in my diving career, there were pioneers that paved the way for my generation.  Most of those pioneers where upstanding role models that I still look up to and try to emulate today.  They fought to bring technical and exploration diving into the mainstream, and create a culture of continued education dedicated to both safety, and enjoying the ride.  Others were shining examples of the type of anchors determined to hold the industry down only to benefit their own agenda.  Fortunately, many of the latter were dismissed by the dive industry, and we are collectively better off without them.  However, there is one individual whose legacy will live on for eternity, and the stories of his obscene rants and tantrums will be passed on from generation to generation.  Many of George Irvine III’s (aka “Trey” or GI3”) forum posts and blog articles have been archived on private servers around the globe to be saved as reminders of what happens when your ego grows larger than your common sense. 

The article titled, “Fear and Loathing on the Internet” that inspired this blog entry was written by one of the founders of TDI, Brett Gilliam, to announce Mr. Irvine’s expulsion from TDI.   The article can be found HERE (warning: explicit language, reader discretion advised, don’t let your children see this).  This article paints a pretty vivid picture of how destructive internet communication can be to the industry.  Remember, these are the type of things new divers and those who aspire to become technical divers are going to see when searching the internet for information.  I know I saw many of these archived posts from GI3 when I started the journey into technical diving; luckily, I was able to look past the venomous negativity and focus towards the useful information and support I was searching for.

So now, 20 years later, are we doing a better job at maintaining a positive and productive channel for information via the internet?  We would all love to think so, and while the forums are moderated to keep the type of viscous attacks described above to a minimum, we now have a new medium to manage, Facebook.  While Facebook moderates their site for certain inappropriate content, they rely on the users to moderate their own walls and groups. 

The reality of it hit me square in the face last weekend as I was cooling off in the springs on a hot afternoon in North Florida before gearing up for a cave dive.  I overheard two instructors discussing an open water class and the poor buoyancy, trim and diving abilities of the students in training.  To my surprise, one of the instructors said, “film it and post it on Facebook, that’ll teach ‘em.” 

“Teach who?” I thought.  Do we really think the instructor will react positively to public shaming and change their ways?  What about the poor students who were excited about their accomplishment and the world of adventures their diving certification will open up for them, and now are ashamed of their performance?  And the worst part of all, what about POTENTIAL divers who see this type of negativity at the entry level of the sport?  How excited will they be to sign up and get involved with that wonderful community of like-minded individuals?

Here at World HQ, we frequently receive complaints daily about instructors publicly blaming other instructors for fatalities, threatening to commit acts of violence and destruction of property, urinating on each other (seriously, that one actually happened), complaining about someone wearing too many tanks, how so and so couldn’t run a reel into the eye at Ginnie 10 years ago – how could he possibly be a cave instructor today?  We also see entire forums based entirely on taking individual facts from accidents out of context and speculating about who’s at fault.  The list goes on and on.  When I think I’ve seen it all, I am completely blown away by the level of nonsense pulled by “professionals” in this industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention of these types of posts. I believe the authors truly have the students, divers and environment’s best interest in mind; but it’s exhaustingly childish.  We’re here to go scuba diving, gang.  As a community, we need to grow up and find more productive ways to improve the quality of instruction, diving, and conservation of the environment. It starts with role modeling and being the change you want to see in others.

Next time you see something that strikes a nerve with you (either online or at the dive site), think of all of the time and energy you will spend posting the negative comment, debating and defending the comment, and complaining about the people who will disagree with you.  Will it be hours?  Days? We often see these threads rage on for weeks. How much of your emotional energy will it suck out of you? 

Take that time and energy, and create something positive with it. 

Turn it into a useful tool to promote safe and environmentally conscious diving.  At SDI/TDI/ERDI, we welcome blog articles and videos from ALL of our members, and we are happy to post them in our monthly SDI/TDI/ERDI and member’s newsletters and on our blog pages.  We’ll even let you include links to your own website in order to help promote your services!  This will give you a broad audience to share helpful hints, tips, and tricks on diving.  And we’re not the only ones doing it, there are a lot of ways to reach the masses and get your information out there in a positive way.    

If what you are witnessing in the field is a standards violation (not a difference in personal preference on teaching style), we strongly encourage you to send any quality assurance messages to training@tdisdi.com

While a lot of the diving we do can be hazardous and needs to be taken seriously, at the end of the day we’re all just doing it to have some fun.  People are searching for diving related information constantly, as a community, it’s our responsibility to ensure what they find helps inform, educate, or entertain them in order to create a welcoming and fun atmosphere they will want to be a part of.   If you have an idea you feel should be shared with divers, instructors or potential student divers, we want to help you get your message out there.  Please email marketing@tdisdi.com with your ideas. 

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