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Skydiving & Social Media Criticism


Situation:

Today, I posted two instagram photos in quick succession. The first photo was my camera view of a friend during his tandem. The second was a confusing image of a botched three-way linked belly exit with experienced skydivers. The view in the second image was hard to decipher; arms and legs flew everywhere.

I’m writing this post in gratitude of a fellow skydiver and his approach to constructive feedback on social media.

Not long after, an experienced sky-ninja that I trust messaged me privately with some concerns. He assumed from the posts that the image of the botched exit and the image of the tandem were the same jump: Not a Good Sitch.

Why?

Because, like he informed me in his message, linked exits with a tandem are prohibited by the manufacturer and are very, very unsafe. He warned that governing bodies are using social media to crack down on instructors that are not performing their duties safely or in accordance with their training. I replied quickly explaining that the jumps were not one-in-the-same and very, very promptly added more clarifying information to my captions for the photos. More importantly, I thanked him for calling out sketch behavior and for doing it via the appropriate channels. The conversation ended with “Blue Skies” all around; life continued.

What is Constructive Feedback?

Constructive feedback, sometimes called negative feedback, highlights an area where improvement is needed. The difference between negative feedback and constructive feedback is phrasing: Constructive Feedback is structured in a way that the person receiving it does not feel attacked. Instead, that person feels encouraged to improve and better themselves.

Why bother to mention his message at all?

In his message, he does two things.

  1. He calls out (what he thought was) sketch behavior, which is a way to give constructive feedback.
    1. Good feedback demonstrates integrity by keeping the sport safe and legit. It is up to us to police ourselves and keep the sport safe and honest. Upholding safety standards and demanding those standards from your fellow skydivers is essential for keeping up the reputation of the sport.
    2. Constructive, thoughtful feedback shows that you value your fellow skydivers. Once, I was told that if you stop receiving feedback, it means people have given up on you. They have stopped believing that you can or will better yourself. They have stopped caring learn or improve. By the sky-ninja sharing this information with me, he is showing he cares about my safety and he cares that I am well-informed.
  2. He gives feedback via the appropriate channels by using a private message. When you use the proper channels, the recipient is less likely to feel attacked and more likely to listen.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because, as a community, skydivers are not good at giving constructive, appropriate giving feedback. We lash out in public threads on facebook. We yell at each other across the landing area or the packing mats. We talk trash about other skydivers. No, we’re not all awful, all the time. But we are all poor at this some of the time.

Okay, Colorbarf. Stop Lecturing. Get off your high horse.

You’re right. I’m not always great at this. And you’re right. This sounds like a lot of touchy-feely mumbo-jumbo. Who am I to address this stuff? I am a qualified person, that’s who. At my day job, I spend my time convincing engineering teams that they should adopt the practices I suggest for developing software. I am trained on how to deliver a message to someone. I have experience helping people improve at what they do. So if you want skydivers around you to actually improve, make sure you’re doing Constructive Feedback right.

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