Last year, I quit Facebook.
I thought it would be difficult, and that I’d probably cave and rejoin after a few weeks. Instead, I felt like I got time back, started having more meaningful conversations, and stopped witnessing useless drama. The majority of my connections had been people I’d known in high school and hadn’t seen since. And, the few people who were actually still my friends, I kept in contact with directly anyway.
Though I left Facebook and haven’t looked back, I’ve been a fairly regular Instagram visitor over the years. I had also considered leaving Instagram, but stayed in order to maintain frequent contact with readers of Fish Untamed. Despite my staying, I rarely make lasting connections or have meaningful engagement there.
Then, I joined GoWild.
What is it?
I want to start by saying I’m not affiliated with GoWild in any way, apart from being a happy user. I joined after hearing about it on a few podcasts.
For those not familiar, GoWild is a social media app for outdoorsmen. Although it’s primarily focused on hunting and fishing, it’s also meant for hikers, skiers, bikers, climbers, cooks, fitness enthusiasts, and anyone else dedicating time to being more active outside.
While you can “follow” people you want to keep up with, GoWild is less focused on the concept of friends or following people, and geared more toward following activities. So, I can choose to see content I’m more interested in like fly fishing, hiking, and hunting, while excluding content I’m not, such as taxidermy.
There are quite a few of these categories, called trails, to follow, and each person’s post is included in a trail for followers of that trail to see. There are also fun and unexpected categories like outdoor podcasts, DIY, and noodling.
Apart from just writing posts to the trails, you can also log activity within each. With just the app, you can specify what you did, how long you did it, and share photos and text about your outdoor pursuit. If you have a Garmin watch, you can hook it up to automatically track things like time, routes, heart rate, and more during activities. These logged items (both manual and tracked) give your profile a score. The more stuff you do outside, the higher your score is.
I’ll be honest, when I first heard about the scoring system, I was a bit turned off. You get points for harvesting fish and game in addition to just being active outside, so at first it seemed like hunting, fishing, and other “consumptive” activities were being turned into a game. I didn’t like the idea of getting points for making a kill.
I’ve since changed my mind though, and don’t mind the scoring system. The points do nothing apart from showing which people have been logging activities (there are no point contests, ranking, or similar competitions), so I no longer view it as a game, but rather a way to show who is active on the app and outside.
By outdoorsmen, for outdoorsmen
GoWild is a fairly simple app. Log your activities, share what you’ve been up to, ask questions, and connect with people.
However, there’s something about GoWild that I have yet to find on other social media sites: genuine and positive connections with complete strangers.
GoWild is a small community. Compared to the big hitters like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it has a very small following. Yet, I have way higher engagement on nearly everything I post to GoWild, and nearly all my interactions are positive.
GoWild grew out of a need for a place for hunters and anglers to share their pursuits without the risk of being berated over activities that were legal, ethical, and productive. Obviously, truly bad behavior deserves to be called out, but too often sites like Instagram will block content that isn’t actually bad behavior.
Because of this, the community that flocked to GoWild went there with the goal of generally supporting each other, communicating openly, and trying to promote healthy and positive connections with the outdoors.
Although there’s a wide variety of people with a wide variety of interests (from bird hunting to birdwatching) on GoWild, it feels like a cohesive community and people are very active and responsive.
For example, I reached out to ask if anyone had experience making their own turkey tail mounts. Within a week, I had three homemade mounts sent to my house by another user, with whom I still chat frequently on the app.
I asked for recommendations on workout routines and had dozens of responses with creative ideas.
I mentioned that I wanted to find a way to carry my DSLR more easily while hiking, and had folks send me ideas of products to assist.
And, this is all from a relatively small niche community whose only goal is to connect with likeminded people and promote spending time outside.
As I mentioned before, I’m not affiliated with GoWild. I just really want to see more people ditching the big social media companies and giving small sites like this a chance. If more people acted civilly, the way the GoWild community does, social media would be a much more pleasant place.