Instagram Threatens Mountain Ecosystem

Instagram Threatens Mountain Ecosystem

The latest victim of geotagging and Instafame is Mount Aspiring in New Zealand. Fears of damage to its delicate ecosystem are rising as thousands of people flock to the region in order to take the same photograph.

As reported by The Guardian, the volume of visitors is having an impact on the national park. Toilets have been installed and car parks enlarged in order to deal with the growing numbers, but locals argue that this has only made the location even more accessible, thus drawing even more people.

Of particular interest is Roy’s Peak, which features a track that takes walkers on a gentle 5-6 hour hike and offers stunning views across Lake Wanaka. This lake is overlooked by the Southern Alps, a mountain range made familiar to many after being used for the filming of The Fellowship of the Ring. Social media users seem to be particularly keen to get a shot of themselves looking out over the landscape with their arms outstretched — so many that there is often a queue.

While it’s easy to get annoyed by this phenomenon, consider the words of the character Cueball in one of my favorite comics by XKCD: “If ‘other people having experiences incorrectly’ is annoying to you, think how unbearable it must be to have a condescending stranger tell you they hate the way you’re experiencing your life just at the moment you’ve found something you want to remember.” In this instance, it's worth caring about how people enjoy something if that enjoyment poses a direct threat to a fragile alpine ecosystem.

Furthermore, the position of the arms suggests isolation and a sense of awe inspired by the landscape. Given that there's a crowd of people waiting for you to put your arms down and move out of the way, one wonders how valuable that image can be. No doubt many believe that they're repeating this trope with a tongue firmly lodged in their cheek, but I look forward to the day when we've reached "peak arms outstretched." Perhaps the yellow anoraks can start staying at home, too.

Fstopper Tim Behuniak has written before about how we should resist geotagging the exact location of our photographs, but unfortunately, for many locations, not having the precise coordinates is probably not going to affect visitor numbers.

Lead image by John Vossen, used under Creative Commons.

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20 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

National Parks have been begging more visitors to come for decades and now they’re getting their wish.

Simon Patterson's picture

Oh come on, people don't need geotags to find Mount Aspiring! This "geotagging is evil" claim is getting beyond ridiculous.

user-128252's picture

People are sheep...

Motti Bembaron's picture

People ARE sheep, you're right.

Dan Marchant's picture

Soylent Green is Sheep!! Oh wait no...

"The latest victim of geotagging and Instafame is Mount Aspiring in New Zealand" - except that, no, Mount. Aspiring is fine. So is the national park. Roy's Peak isn't in the national park... and the original article didn't say it was. Weird re-reporting.

Jeff Walsh's picture

There is almost no reporting ever done on FStoppers. It is, however, filled with bloggers who love to call the sky falling in their titles while having done zero, absolute zero, research or even thinking about what they're typing. Gotta get them clicks doh

Rob Mynard's picture

The writers on fstoppers (and most blog sites) get paid per click, it's not surprising that they then write towards those clicks. If you get paid per sheep you shear you're going to shear as many sheep as you can, if you get paid per house you sell, you're going to try to sell more houses. Fstoppers is free to read because the advertisers have paid your entrance fee and they don't pay for journalistic integrity, they pay for clicks.

Bill Peppas's picture

The wind and rain is also molesting the delicate ecosystem.
Let's ban them too!

Oh by the way, is the Grand Canyon dead already or not ?
Can I still visit the Statue of Liberty or it went down by feeling scared by all the eyes staring at it each day ?

Jeff Walsh's picture

Read nothing but the title, and my response to the entire article: no its not.

Daniel Medley's picture

Saying Instagram causes ecological problems is like saying food causes obesity.

The fault of either lies in neither.

It's behavior.

Behavior can be influenced to extreme levels by many industrial factors like marketing and brand power.

You are not as much in control as you think.

Jeff Walsh's picture

False, even the things you named only affect us if we allow it. The need to feel apart, a lack of self esteem, identity, all of those factors are controllable by the individual. The problem lay with education, and emotional and mental health. If a person educates themselves (not talking about school per say) and has healthy habits both mentally and emotionally, all the marketing and brand power in the world does nothing.

Right. That must be why all the current company pay big money to create campaign and find their own brand.

Because of all the uneducated people.

It must be nice to feel that much superior to others by not being influenced by marketing...

Jeff Walsh's picture

That's exactly why they do it, because it makes them a TON of money when they play to those crowds. Self confident people aren't easily influenced. They've taken time to educate themselves about who they are, what they want, and how they want to get there. An ad doesn't effect, or influence, a person like that because they're secure and focused. When's the last time you saw ANY commercial for ANY product that wasn't playing to the lowest common denominator?

Also, I mentioned three aspects of a healthy person, and you focused on the educated part, and revealed your troll when you threw out the "superior" part. Played your hand a little quick pumpkin, but peace out. You won't get more from me.

Seriously, again. My favorite comic strip was a Bloom County where Binkley gets worried about killing innocent ants and germs and so he stops breathing. Look it up. There are no morale absolutes except I am absolutely hungry for a slice of pizza. Get over this geotagging is affecting wilderness bullshit. Your plane trips for insipid commercial travel photography projects are killing the planet more.

I will never understand why anyone wold stand in line to take the same photo as everyone else.

The same reason that someone continues to defend Trump after it is clear that he is a bad human being: stubbornness that you went that far you might as well go the whole distance. Or is it analogous to a willingness to do something not because It is about the greater good but rather fulfilling your self interest. Any evangelicals want to respond to that one? Save your breath. You.lost the high ground a decade ago.

greg tennyson's picture

It's not even an interesting photo. I dont get it?

Michael Breitung's picture

That's so sad. When I was there 4 years ago I was the only person up there for sunset. The much more popular subject was still the Wanaka tree back then. It's crazy what an influence Instagram has on some areas.

PS: who knows the video game lemmings from back in the days. Those hords of people kind of remind me of this. You even often read of people falling of cliffs trying to take a photo, so even more parallels. It's just crazy