We have a responsibility in the language we use to describe the outdoors
To a greater or lesser extent, most people write clickbait (‘clickbaiting’ perhaps?) when posting content online. We want people to look at, like and interact with our stuff, so we are bound to write tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook statuses etc. in a way that will attract attention.
If you have a blog, run a small business, or work for a large corporate, you are probably also guilty of writing linkbait (or ‘linkbaiting’) (subconsciously or on purpose). This is content designed to be linked to by other websites. I will not bore you with the details, but the more your site is linked to, the better it probably ranks in Google (and the more people that will find the stuff you are trying to sell).
We do however have a responsibility in the language we use to describe the outdoors!
This tweet caught my eye this afternoon from Blacks Online:
— Blacks.co.uk (@blacks_online) March 5, 2016
Classic clickbait – a nice photo to catch your eye and a sensational title! Within a few moments of landing on the page you are greeted with a massive pop up offering a discount in their online shop – frustrating but all standard e-commerce sales tricks.
It is a fairly bland article ultimately asking how soon is too soon to encourage kids to get outside after an 8 year old attempted the 3 peaks challenge. Personally I think it is a non-point – encourage kids to get outdoors within their limits from any age. In fact that applies for everyone…. get outdoors at any age within your limits (or perhaps gently pushing those limits). If that 8-year old has been hiking since he or she was 4, then they are probably better able to do the 3 peaks than I am!
What really wound me up however is the language used – not just the clickbait title ‘Are we putting our kids in danger outdoors’, but in the main article ‘and as a result, putting them in potentially perilous situations and scenarios’. Danger?! Peril?! The outdoors can be perilous and dangerous, but it is about risk – and you minimise that risk by not exceeding the limits of your experience, equipment and skills. Experience and skill can only come from being outdoors and taking small steps to practice, develop, discover and experience. What is definitely a danger to kids is to stick them in front of a screen and pump them full of sugar!
We already have an uphill struggle to encourage people, especially children, to get outdoors (and indeed to learn about risk and how to manage it). Better and more experienced people than me have also discussed the problems with how the mass media outlets are describing the outdoors since the two hikers in Scotland disappeared. What does not help either cause is for large companies in the outdoor world, like Blacks, using this same language of ‘outdoors danger’ just so they can get some clicks, and a boost in search engine rankings so they can ultimately sell us more stuff (ironically used outdoors…)
We are better than that.
Blacks responded on Twitter to my suggestion their article was click/linkbait:
“We wrote the article to get our community thinking & learn more about what our community thinks in regards to the topic. We just want to learn more about the type of content they want to see :)”
So nothing to do with selling stuff…. silly me….
A few years ago, I recorded a podcast with Gareth about going outdoors with kids: http://www.shareyouradventure.com/blog/2013/07/09/social-hiking-podcast-episode-2-the-one-with-gareth-jones/ (skip to 29:05 for the 20 minute segment on this topic)