The Broccoli Tree, A Somber Parable About the Risk of Sharing Something You Love on Social Media

But the saddest thing of all, however. You absolutely cannot un-saw a tree.

Author John Green of the Vlogbrothers shared the somber story of the Broccoli Tree, a lone tree that once sat upon Lake Vättern in south central Sweden. Every day, a photographer named Patrik Svedberg would pass this tree on his way to work and take a picture of it. Svedberg eventually named the tree and decided to share these photos on Instagram. The tree became very popular, so much so that the tree became an actual destination, bringing its fans under its overhanging branches. Unfortunately, it also brought those who sought to alter the tree, do damage to the tree or cut down the tree for their own pleasure. Only when it was too late did Svedberg realize that sharing photos of his beloved broccoli tree directly led to the tree’s inevitable destruction.

To share something is to risk losing it especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale and where everyone seems to want to be noticed even if only for cutting down a beloved tree. If you’d never photographed the broccoli tree, it might still be there for you to see on your commute every day. It might still provide shade to the real people who live with you on the southern bank of that lake, but then again the faraway people who loved your pictures of the broccoli tree were real too. They took shelter under its canopy as well. … If we hoard and hide what we love, we can still lose it. Only then we’re alone in the loss. You can’t unsaw a tree but you can’t unsee one either.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.