Do you remember high school? Okay, maybe some of you reading this post are stilll in high school. But if you’re older, do you remember what it was like? I mean, do you really remember?
Everyone experiences high school (or any level of school, for that matter) differently. Some of us have a great time, others barely survive, but one thing is certain: The longstanding tropes of Jocks, Cheerleaders, Nerds, It Girls, Outcasts, Drama Freaks, Rednecks, Art Dorks, and the most loathed of all, the Clingers, haven’t become tropes without reason. There are always a variety of stereotypes that kids either naturally fall into, or get pushed into. It’s not fair, but it’s been this way since the beginning of time.
While you’re in high school, everything social hangs on which group you fall into. Even if you don’t want to be in a certain group, you suddenly find that your entire life gets judged by which group you’re in, or at least by which group everyone else perceives you to be in. And if you can’t get into a group, you’ll be just a Clinger, and that’s social suicide because then you’re just fodder for everyone else.
Maybe you’re a badass on the trumpet, and love music, but then all of your friends go out for JV football. You don’t want to be the lame-o who didn’t try out when they did, so you feel like you have to go, even if you’d rather be in band. Also if your don’t go with the guys, you’ll never be able to hang out together because JV practices after school, so the Band Dweebs have to meet before school starts, and then they sit in front of you in math and smell like grass and old sneakers because they didn’t get to shower before school started. Besides, if your buddies make JV, and you throw in with the Band Dweebs, you’ll never hear the end of it when you do get to spend time with the guys. Bros stick together, after all, and you’ll be the one who ran out on them. Or, worse yet, if you don’t try for JV, and then you flub your band try out, you won’t be anywhere. You’ll be nothing but a Clinger. who doesn’t fit in anywhere, and just has to do their own thing.
So you go out for JV football, and you make the team with all your friends. And just like that, you’re a Jock. Even if you quit the team, it’s a done deal. Jock is your tagline for high school. And it does have its perks. Cheerleaders and It girls are all on the table, now. The Clingers, too, since they don’t even count because they’re always doing their own thing, so you can have your pick of them, and then still take Selena, that 9.5 Cheerleader, to Homecoming, because, well, Clingers aren’t real GF material, but they’re fun, once in a while. Yeah, let the Nerds and Drama Freaks duke it out for the Art Dorks and Band Dweebs, the real lookers are in your league, now. At least, the girls that everyone is into are in your league.
It’s a decent system, really. No crossing the lines. You always know where you stand and what’s at stake and how things are supposed to work out. Kind of like that book you were supposed to read in English this year but didn’t because none of the other guys wanted to. You did catch the movie version, though, just so you’d be able to answer the questions on the pop quiz that everyone knew was coming. The Outsiders, that’s the one. Yeah, there are more groups at school than just the Socs and Greasers but it’s the same idea. You stick to the rules and play whatever role you got handed and you’ll make it out just fine.
Fast forward a decade–maybe only a few years– and you pause while walking to the office and look back on your high school years. And you start laughing. Laughing like crazy laughing. Crazy laughing like people on the sidewalk around you start to go extra wide to either side, unwilling to cross the street entirely, but making sure that some other person is more in reach, just in case you lose your shit and start grabbing at folks.
Why are you laughing like a maniac?
Because high school–and which clique you were in–had no more significance in the scheme of your life than a bug on the windshield of an a380 Airbus flying at 35,000 feet.
You can’t know more than you’ve experienced. If you’ve never made it through high school, or through the age at which most of us go through high school, you literally can’t know what’s beyond it. You can daydream about it, or theorize, plan, make achievement lists, or set goals like becoming the owner of your own law firm. But until you actually get on the other side of things, you can’t see what’s going to be there waiting for you.
Now here you are, standing on a sidewalk, still laughing, and you’re going to be late to work, which means the guy at the front desk will be sure to tell the third-rate clerk who works for you that you’re late and the clerk will ‘accidentally’ let that slip to your boss who does, incidentally, own the law firm where you’re just a junior partner. But all you can think about right at this moment is the fact that your boss, the guy who owns the law firm, has fifteen framed photographs of him playing the piccolo in marching band, and he never played a single game in football in his entire life.
It doesn’t matter that he was a Band Dweeb in high school. It doesn’t matter that you were a Jock. High school was four measly years in the span of what–gods willing–will be twenty times that over the course of your life. Maybe more, if you’re lucky. Who belonged to what clique fades into complete irrelevance.
Fads are exactly like that. And the phenomenon that I think of as Social Media Conservation is the hottest fad on the planet right now.
A fad is defined as “an intense and widely shared enthu- siasm for something, especially one that is short-lived” (Oxford English Dictionary 2013) and likely to fade away once the perception of novelty has gone.
Now, parts of social media are great, and serve to make a genuine difference in the world, and social media itself, is not likely to go anywhere anytime in the near future. However, the phenomenon of Social Media Conservation can’t die soon enough, if you ask me.
Just what is Social Media Conservation?
Besides being a pox on genuine efforts to conserve our planet and all the things living on it, Social Media Conservation is the phenomenon of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people taking to social media en masse to champion Celebrity Conservationists.
Not conservationists who happen to be movies stars, like Leonardo DiCaprio, but Celebrity Conservationists who, without their ‘conservation angle’ would not be celebrities or known names at all. Unfortunately, the majority of these Celebrity Conservationists often do far more damage to animals and conservation efforts than they do good.
Eduardo Serio of Black Jaguar White Tiger is the reigning king of Celebrity Conservationists. What he posts to his Instagram, and other accounts is completely irrelevant to conservation in any form and some of the posts are blatantly detrimental to the animals he claims to have rescued. His “sanctuary” is not accredited by the GFAS, though it is supposedly a sanctuary under Mexican law (I’ve seen no evidence of this, but since he threatens to sue and destroy anyone who claims otherwise, there it is) Yet his followers eagerly cheer the posts on, share them repeatedly, and basically flood the internet with them.
The content of Black Jaguar White Tiger’s Instagram account ranges from adolescent lions peeing on the walls of Eduardo’s own home, to Eduardo randomly spinning around in circles with an adolescent lion over his shoulders to Eduardo himself lying on the floor of his own bedroom (the cubs literally live in his walk-in closet until they’re a month or two old) covered in young lion cubs.
Not one of these videos serves any purpose in the world of conservation, or to raise awareness in regard to the plight of wild lions, or wild big cats. However, they do have a function, and that function is to make Eduardo–and his Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation–look like the coolest place on earth. And the videos work. Each of those three videos has been ‘liked’ by Instagram users anywhere between 68,600 (first video) 78,200 (second video) and 128,000 (third video) times and thousands of comments have been made on each one.
68,600 people have liked a video showing a captive lion cub pissing on the wall of a home lived in by humans.
And these followers actually believe that the guy who owns that captive lion cub, and the house it’s pissing all over is somehow saving lions, saving our planet, and not keeping them as pets, as per the hashtags #SaveLions #NotPets and #SaveOurPlanet, which are very carefully included with virtually every photograph and video uploaded to the Black Jaguar White Tiger Instagram and other social media accounts. And there are tens of thousands of those photographs and videos, all carefully hashtagged #SaveLions #SaveJaguars #SaveTigers #SaveOcelots and most the most asinine claim #NotPets
The guy is videoing exotic big cats and other exotic animals running around inside his house, pissing on the walls, sleeping in his bed, lying in his lap, rough-housing with the select high-name guests he brings in for more exposure and swimming in his in-ground swimming pool.
But they are not pets. Right. I have a bridge I’ll sell you, too.
But dare to question the edict that the animals being exploited by Black Jaguar White Tiger are not pets and are not being exploited? Be prepared for personal attacks ranging from the mild ‘You’re an idiot, Eduardo is saving them from a horrible life!’ to the more heated ‘Fuck off, you’re a stupid cunt who’s just jealous of Eduardo’s bond with his cats’ to the unhinged ‘Keep it up, bitch, and someone’s gonna come piss on your walls!’ *These are not actual threats I’ve received, but a sampling of actual responses made to other, similar to what you’ll get if you have the gumption to actually question Black Jaguar White Tiger and what they’re doing.*
Unsurprisingly, when such gang-ups occur, the commenter who challenged the status quo is often battered vehemently, and then the entire post is immediately deleted, and the original commenter blocked. Unless you take screen shots as it’s occurring–something that most people don’t think to do while they’re trying to defend themselves and their position–there is no evidence it ever happened at all, leaving a situation of ‘he said she said’. This is the savagery of Internet bullying and assault. And, tragically, it is incredibly typical within the circles of Celebrity Conservationists. This is how they insulate themselves from answering questions or being held accountable for their actions. They gather devotees and then simply let those mindless followers do all the dirty work of defending them.
Social Media Conservation is a self-fullfilling phenomenon. The ‘cooler’ a Celebrity Conservationist is, the more followers they get, the more exposure their foundation receives–even if it never produces any tangible evidence of conservation efforts–the more their name and that of their sanctuary or foundation is spread, the more followers it gathers, the more those followers talk about it, the more they share posts, the more unimpeachable the Celebrity Conservationist becomes until their presence is so immense, their influence so insurmountable that to speak out against them is to invite the unified wrath of the millions who worship them.
And suddenly, we find ourselves stepping back through a wormhole into the era of high school cliques. Instead of Jocks or Cheerleaders, there are Celebrity Conservationists, and a planet full of people obsessed with getting into the cliques formed by those Celebrity Conservationists. And if you aren’t in those cliques, then you’re immediately degraded to being just a Clinger hanging around the edges and taking potshots at them simply because you’re jealous that you’re not involved. Your facts, and science, and utterly valid arguments are devalued and belittled by accusations of personal vendettas and ignorance. You’re either jealous of the Celebrity Conservationist, or you don’t understand them.
But this is the incontrovertible truth about these Celebrity Conservationists and their social media empires:
They’re no more significant in the scheme of conservation and the survival of the planet and the animals on it than a bug on the windshield of an a380 Airbus flying at 35,000 feet.
Yeah, Black Jaguar White Tiger has 4.3 million followers on Instagram, and almost 10,000 posts on Instagram. Big fucking deal.
What has Black Jaguar White Tiger done to help wild animals in wild habits, in real life situations? Not what have they talked about doing, or discussed doing, or promised to do, but what have they actually done?
The answer is nothing.
He can’t even get a GFAS accreditation. In all Eduardo’s supposed fundraising, and supposed efforts at conservation, the only thing he has actually done is con 4.3 million people (and countless backers and Hollywood celebrities) into thinking he’s the best thing since sliced bread, while amassing a hoard of some 180+ captive big cats which are currently crammed into a residential house (location unknown) and caged on an 8 acre plot of land (location unknown) and with a promised several thousand acre ‘paradise’ to be built for them in the future.
Just like high school, this fad of Social Media Conservation is going to pass. In another five years, no one is going to be infatuated with how many followers they have on Instagram. No one will even remember Instagram. All of the popularity that is so vital to Celebrity Conservationists will disappear. And without the 4.3 million followers worshiping every inexplicable farce they engage in with their ‘rescued’ captive wild animals, these Celebrity Conservationists will fade away. If they’re lucky, they’ll become a nothing name. If not, and if our laws in regard to animal rights and protection increase, maybe they’ll be in jail for all the damage they’ve done to the animals they claimed to be helping.
But no matter what happens to the Celebrity Conservationists, the animals they used to attain their brief throne will remain. Likely thousands more animals will remain, since places like Black Jaguar White Tiger maintain a constant stream of newborn animals, and do not believe in the practice of spaying and neutering.
And all of those captive wild animals will still need to be cared for, on top of all the wild animals still in the wild who need to be protected so that they might remain in the wild.
A crisis that will fall onto the shoulders of genuine conservationists who toil tirelessly in the shadows, without any expectation of public thanks, because simply seeing wild animals in the wild where they belong, or seeing captive wild animals properly housed in spacious wild-like enclosures, unbothered by humans, is all the thanks we need in order to feel good about ourselves.
Author: Artemis Grey