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All you need is a keyboard

Published on December 2nd, 2021

The online communication revolution has taught us some lessons. Beginning with blogs, and then through forums and now social media, there are free platforms that facilitate the transfer of information. It can be quite helpful, though it can also skip a step of responsible conversation.

Joe Jackson had it right in his song Sunday Papers when he mocked, “They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.” George Day, Publisher of Blue Water Sailing Media, offers this observation from his Cruising Compass newsletter:

Social Media Misinformation
If you have joined or participated in some of the social media groups dedicated to sailing, cruising, boat buying, marine electronics, and more, you’ll know that there are a lot of new sailors and cruisers out there who have been hooked by the lifestyle during the pandemic. And, for good reason, since sailing and boating in general is a great way to get out with your close friends and family in a socially distant environment.

Plus, cruising is a great way to have a manageable adventure. The groups and forums offer a good way for newcomers to seek advice and information from what some call the “hive mind” of the group. Topics and questions range from the most elementary to some quite complex issues.

However, it’s the responses to these questions that interest and often concern me because the opinions offered by members of these groups range from excellent and well informed to just plain dead wrong, without any way for a newcomer to know the difference.

If you really don’t understand the difference between series and parallel wiring in a boat’s battery bank, you shouldn’t be offering advice on the subject to someone who also doesn’t know. The result could be disastrous. But that doesn’t stop some from offering uninformed advice anyway.

These social media groups are a great way for us to interact with our community of sailors and cruisers and can be very helpful. But, newcomers to sailing and boat ownership, need to maintain a deep skepticism about technical advice offered and even when a consensus solution to a problem builds, it is still vital to confirm that solution with a marine professional with years of experience.

In my view, the “hive mind” gets it wrong just about as often as it gets it right.

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