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Jake Old: The social media struggle

Jake Old • Updated Jan 19, 2017 at 1:00 PM

When I was working in Sevierville, Tenn., I once wrote about an interesting guy named Justin Burke.

Sometime during his teenage years, Burke quit school and went to go live in the wilderness of the Great Smoky Mountains. He had always been an outdoorsman, and at a certain point, he realized that he would rather live off the land than integrate into our society.

I met him through the staff photographer we had at the newspaper there. The photographer’s son went to school with Burke, and managed to set up a way for us to get in touch with him.  

Over the years, Burke lived in a tepee, an old recreational vehicle and a cabin he built himself. When we spoke, he was living on a farm in Kentucky. He had no use for electricity or any modern comforts we all take for granted sometimes.

Burke began learning to forge tools, such as hatchets and axes, and would trade those tools with farmers for food when he could not forage on his own.

In Pigeon Forge, there’s actually a pretty sizable community of people who are passionate about this sort of craft. For those who do not know, the city gets its name from being set alongside the Little Pigeon River and for once being home to a thriving metal forge.

As Burke got better and better at his craft, some of his peers took notice. While he lived in the wilderness, he was not completely cut off from civilization. He would still see his old friends and his family from time to time.

His friends told him they would happily pay him to get some of those items, even when they didn’t have practical uses for them. One friend told him that if he could set something up online, he could make a decent amount of money selling those items.

Not having a computer, nor even knowing how to properly operate one, he didn’t think such a thing was feasible. He told me that he didn’t see any use for computers, and thus he never learned how to use computers when he was younger.

Still, his friend helped him set up a Facebook account, and showed him the barebones basics of how to use Facebook on a computer. From there, Burke would get on a computer when visiting a friend or family, and he would see the requests for various items that people had sent him. He would then use the money he made to purchase food or other items to advance his craft.

The guy literally lived in the wilderness and was operating a successful business through Facebook.

In our work here at The Democrat, we put a high value on the ability to share our stories, photos and videos with our readers through various social media channels, and Facebook is particularly popular.

In fact, I’ve been told that having an active social media presence is part of being a journalist in the 21st century.

Personally, I don’t like using Facebook, or any social media, really. Everything seems to be either snarky or disingenuous. That includes my personal social media posting.

But professionally, I don’t get a choice. So, during the past few months, I’ve been making a concerted effort to make my professional Facebook page at least a little bit better. I’ve made some strides, but there is still much more room to grow.

So, in the name of shameless self-promotion, why don’t you go look at my Facebook page, and let me know everything I’m doing wrong? It’s facebook.com/JakeAOld/.

If a guy who doesn’t like computers and doesn’t even have regular access to internet can have a popular Facebook page and run his business through it, surely I can at least have something respectable.

Even someone who lives in the wilderness can’t escape social media, so I certainly shouldn’t expect it to be any different for me. 

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