Social media in many ways has become a climate of fostering misinformation and polarization that’s become a constant source of stress and exhaustion.
That’s why many people in Wyoming and elsewhere find an uncorrupted sanctuary in the photos and discussions posted in the Facebook group Wyoming through the Lens.
When Cowboy State Daily last checked in with Wyoming through the Lens in 2019, there were 111,000 members in the group. The group is on track to reach 400,000 members by its 10th anniversary in February, with more approved every day.
Lorri Lang, who started the group in February 2014, said the allure of Wyoming through the Lens is simple.
People love the Cowboy State, and the group allows everyone (once approved) to revel in all things Wyoming through photographs and stunning imagery.
“Some people will never get to see Wyoming in person, so our group provides them with a glimpse of the beauty we have here in Wyoming,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
“We also have people who have had to move from Wyoming that miss it terribly and are so appreciative that they can still see the beauty of their home state through all the beautiful photos our members share," she said.
Lang was inspired to start Wyoming through the Lens after becoming a member of Nebraska through the Lens, a similar group filled with pictures and videos of the Cornhusker State.
The decade since transformed the small circle of like-minded friends into a group that reaches more than half of Wyoming’s population.
Since its inception, Wyoming through the Lens has been a private group that ensures the ever-increasing number of spam accounts stay out. Lang and the group’s administrators, Krissy Borcher and Mandi Kent, along with moderators Caitlyn McCollum and Ranae Diaz, still evaluate and approve each request to join.
It’s a laborious process, but Lang finds plenty of hilarity in it as well.
“When we are approving people who want to join, we ask what the capital of Wyoming is,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “The answers are humorous at times. I've seen answers anywhere from Casper to Iceland! I'm not saying that to be mean or judgmental, it just really makes me giggle.”
The group’s identity has been established as a place for beautiful photos of landscapes, wildlife and nostalgia, but that came with some growing pains. Lang said one controversial decision she still hears about was to not allow hunting photos.
“I get it. I really do,” she said. “I know it's a huge part of Wyoming, but it just causes so much controversy. Some are passionate about hunting and others about animals. We always had to shut down commenting because it got so out of control. So, after kicking it around for a while, I made the executive decision not to allow them anymore.”
However, the overwhelming amount of feedback Lang and the administrators receive is positive. She even hears from the families of deceased members actively involved before they passed.
“We have had a couple of members that were regular with their postings that have since passed away,” she said. “I had a family member or two that messaged me with the sad news. One told me how much their (family) member enjoyed the group and looked forward to it every day. It was very touching hearing how much Wyoming meant to them.”
Wyoming through the Lens started in a simple time in the history of social media. Lang and her collaborators are adapting to the times, but miss the simpler days of 2014.
“Facebook is always changing its algorithm,” she said. “Some changes are OPK and maybe necessary, I suppose. Some are just over the top. I liked it better when things were simpler.”
Most of the posts in Wyoming through the Lens are of places rather than people, but each post has a personal story attached.
For all the beauty and breathtaking photography, Lang believes the group's soul is the people's personal connections with Wyoming.
“WTTL has touched so many people,” she said. “Let's face it. Wyoming has a way of touching your soul like no other place on earth. I have said many times and will continue to say that Wyoming is unmatched by any other place. There really is no place like WyHomeing.”
The personal connections will ensure Wyoming through the Lens endures for the next decade and beyond.
In all the consternation in the world that boils over on social media, there will always be a refuge to see the best of Wyoming and the beauty of its places and people.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.