2018-05-16 / Editorials

Living vicariously through social media

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

My niece Hunter did something last week that I would never have expected her to do. She jumped out of an airplane. Of course, she was wearing a parachute at the time, but that doesn’t make what she did any less surprising.

She posted photos of the experience on social media, and it was obvious that no one pushed her. She jumped of her own accord.

I’m certain at some point in Hunter’s life, her mother has told her the same thing all mothers tell their children when they want to do something all the other kids are doing.

“If all of your friends jumped out of airplane, would you jump, too?”

Apparently that little piece of mothering didn’t take.

I’ve always described my niece as smart and beautiful. Now I may have to add another adjective – crazy.

I’m a little concerned that Hunter is learning to skydive. After all, she’s in school studying to be a commercial pilot, and I’m not sure I like that idea of pilot of my flight to, say, Albuquerque also being trained to jump out. Shouldn’t pilots be like captains of a boat? You know, go down with the ship, so to speak?

I don’t understand skydiving. I see no reason to jump out of a perfectly good plane. I suppose if the pilot told me that the plane was going to crash in a fireball in the side of a mountain and the only way I could survive was to put on a parachute and jump, I’d have to seriously consider it.

On the other hand, if the plane can safely reach a runway, I’ll just stay put, thank you very much.

Experiences like Hunter’s skydiving adventure are part of a growing trend called “extreme vacations,” where people do death defying activities, inexplicably as a way to unwind from the stresses of work.

One story I read was about extreme snow skiing. On this trip, you get into a helicopter, which then hovers over the ski slope. You jump out of the helicopter – wearing your skis, of course – land on the slop and ski to the bottom of the mountain.

Perhaps the most famous extreme vacation is the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. During this event, people run in front of about a dozen bulls that have been let loose on a narrow street.

The problem with this activity is that you don’t always stay in front of the bulls. Sometimes the bulls catch you. Being gored by an angry Spanish bull isn’t really at the top of my list of vacation dreams. I’d consider traveling to Spain to watch the running of the bulls – from comfy, second-floor balcony.

It’s not that I’m a chicken. It’s that vacations are supposed to be relaxing. I prefer relaxing on a beach, preferably one where a beautiful woman in a grass skirt brings me drinks with little umbrellas in them. Or sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a cabin, overlooking beautiful mountain vistas and unconnected from my smartphone and email and text messages.

But thanks to social media, I now can live vicariously through my crazy family members who do crazy things like skydiving. In fact, I can even use their experiences to make myself sound more hip than I really am.

“Yes,” I can tell people, “I have a niece who skydives.”

I like this idea so much I can’t wait to see what Hunter does next.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke@gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/mitch.

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