It does not take much directed experience, either online or face-to-face, to conclude that communication is fundamentally flawed. Note that I don’t need to say “human experience” of “human communication” because that would be redundant. Because we are human we cannot speak coherently outside our own experience, and therefore any type of communication is necessarily our own.
Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park.
Why is that, and what importance might these ideas have for outdoor adventuring in the online era?
The first question is most easily answered by mid-20th century philosophy of language, and the idea the language is an act of faith. When someone says “that lake is sublime,” any efficacy depends on a shared understanding of not only the concept lake, but the concept sublime. At least a little slippage is assumed and tolerated with qualitative words like sublime, but the ambiguity of what lake might mean is less often considered. Indeed, any variation in understanding might not be considered relevant by many. And that would be accurate, quantifing variations between one definition of lake and another is not useful, what is important is understanding the impossibility of doing so. The more complex and nuanced the concept/emotion communicated, the greater the probability that the differences between what is said and what you experience the other person understanding will be consequential.
Why is this important? Our default mode of understanding/communicating (yes, they might as well be the same word) is to assume that some thing-in-itself is out there independent of any communication concerning it. If a lake lies in the woods unseen, yes? But we humans don’t get upset when our words fail to equal the “Truth” of the thing we’re discussing, we get upset when our words fail to evoke a sufficiently comparable experience in and for the person with whom we’re communicating.
Joy: Easy to understand?
The logical extension of viewing communication as inherently subjective and capitol P problematic, and seeing that any reference to an objective third reality is merely slight of hand, is the idea that existence does not exist without the recognition of other humans. And by humans I mean other people enough like you.
The relevance of this to the internet’s influence on and place with distinctly analogue outdoor adventure is best seen in the pervasive attitude so lazily expressed by so many: the internet is for gathering beta and tech info, trip reports are ego, and you should go have your adventures and be quiet.
The ego charge is the most absurd. If communication is so problematic, those best equiped to understand the deeply blended emotions behind our best trips are those who have been closest to those places (physically or psychically) themselves. With a potential group of hopeful confidants so small, even globally, two conclusions are inevitable. First, why would you not publicise your doings? Second, the majority of pseudonymous-via-distance internet feedback is worthless, or at least irrelevant.
Communicating (more prosiacally known as sharing) adventures goes to the very heart of why they remain so popular is a fat age of luxury; they let us know ourselves better. Denying this cannot but represent a profoundly blinkered attitude towards existence as such.