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Most cruisers have heard of the concept of leaving a clean wake. According to the Seven Seas Cruising Association:
To leave a clean wake is to show respect for others and for our environment so that those who follow in our wake will be warmly welcomed. It is our most cherished tradition.
It seems a no-brainer, right? To irreverently, and probably inaccurately, paraphrase, the idea of leaving a clean wake is:
If “being a good person” and “not destroying the environment” aren’t strong enough motivators, we cruisers should keep in mind that other cruisers are following us and we shouldn’t screw everything up for them before they get there.
The clean wake concept covers the effect we leave by physically passing through an area, but for those of us who blog, who post on forums, who belong to list servs, what about our electronic wake?
People behave weirdly when they feel anonymous and although blogs aren’t anonymous, I have heard cruisers say that they can post whatever they want on their blog because it isn’t as if the local officials are reading it. Perhaps local officials aren’t eagerly awaiting our each and every blog post, but it would be insulting to assume that no one on staff knows how to use a search engine and that they can’t google things such as “clearance Country X” or “Country X without a permit”. Google isn’t rocket science and the internet has reached some of the remotest communities, and certainly the capitals of those nations.
Considering the following scenario: You are a cruiser friendly official who is relaxed and on “island time”. You are generally unconcerned about boaters staying a day or two after their check out. A friend of your boss, who owns a local business, sees the blog of a passing cruiser who mentions that they have been in the country several weeks after clearing out. Your boss if furious because they feel it makes their country and the department look incompetent. You feel insulted because you have been so kind to the cruisers and they are rubbing their illegality in your (and your bosses) face. Now, you crack down, you feel that cruisers are disrespectful of your position and you resent the drama that cruisers have brought into your job. Was this the wake the cruiser intended to leave?
Consider another scenario: You have a bad experience with a community and you write about it in your blog in an exaggerated, non measured, out-of-context way. Cruisers read your report, avoid the community, resulting in a loss of much needed business. Was this the impact you intended?
It is impossible to “leave no trace” either physically or electronically. If you consider the fact that you can have a positive impact on a community, leaving without a trace isn’t even desirable. And sometimes you want to post something negative about a community, because even after thinking about it carefully, you feel the impact is warranted.
To me, the idea of leaving a clean wake it to consider the potential impact of your physical presence and leaving a clean electronic wake is to consider the potential impact of your online presence.
Please, consider your impact, both physical and electronic, on the community you visit and on the cruisers who will follow. And if someone isn’t leaving a clean electronic wake (including us), call them on it.