Social media has numbed us to nuance. Short Facebook status updates, Tweets, and Instagram posts are broadcast to the world, typically with limited context. There’s no body language, no eye contact, no expression to let us read between the lines, and between the lines is often where the good stuff is. We’ve been reduced to a 1 or a 0, a yes or a no, for or against, left or right. Snippets of our lives are sent out for mankind to breathe in and weigh in on, because if there’s one thing we all love to do, it’s talk about ourselves, and if there’s a second thing we love to do, it’s talk about everyone else. We’ve confused information for knowledge, and suddenly everyone is an expert.
A lack of subtlety has invaded all of our society, from larger concepts like politics and religion to more immediate forums such as health, diet, and work, all the way down to specific techniques, whether it be how you floss or how you prepare a steak.
The welding community is not immune to this “for or against” mentality. Free hand or walking the cup? Push or pull? TIG or gas weld chromoly?
Some time ago, years back, I posted a photo of a weld or a sculpture in progress—I can’t remember which—and in the photo was my TIG torch with a gas lens. This was long before the current trend of wild rigs and custom cups and lenses and the like. Many younger folks hadn’t been exposed to even basic gas lenses yet. I had literally just started to try one out every now and again. The post received comments like, “Oh, that’s how you weld the thin metal on the sculptures,” and “What cup is that? So, that’s how you make pretty welds!” This was that aha! moment where I realized that people would take that tiny little snapshot in time and extrapolate it to mean that is how I do it every time.
ESAB – Rebel
Tens of thousands of these captured milliseconds and any one person will look at any one photo and think of you or what you do in absolute terms. If there’s a photo of you welding left-handed, several people will comment: “Oh, I didn’t know you’re left-handed, too!” (you’re probably not), or of a weld made by walking the cup: “You should do it freehand” (they are both valuable techniques).
This is one of the reasons I like having this blog as an outlet. I can flesh out my ideas as more than a blip across your screen. So much of welding, and growing as a welder, is done between the lines, in the grey areas. I think blue-collar men and women, boys and girls, have built an interesting micro society of people online who are more willing than most to consider multiple solutions to a problem. You have to collect data, whether through multiple photos or videos or words, disseminate the information within your mind, experience the trials and tribulations of doing the work with your hands and eyes, and experience both success and failures before you truly gain knowledge.