The authenticity of those #wild #liveauthentic social media photos of the outdoor adventure types is questionable at best. But some people really do walk around in the forest with bright colored puffy jackets for more than just snazzy photos and all the likes. Unfortunately, the "take only photos, leave only footprints" model of Leave No Trace principles still leaves many remote and protected areas of the wilderness trampled and exploited by outdoor enthusiasts.
The debate about social media and its effect on the outdoors and our National Parks is continuously debated. Some adventure seekers head out in search for Kodak moments of their own, but more importantly to recreate moments they've seen already on social media. Many accounts are not actively or even knowingly promoting breaking the law, but not every post is as law-abiding as it seems.
Take a recent tweet by REI that caught the attention of Mount Rainer National Park.
The outdoor retailer tweeted out one of their employee's pictures who woke up in their car at Mount Rainier. It's a great photo and a great moment, capturing the light over the mountains and the feeling of dawn. This kind of photography, waking up in the trunk or bed of a vehicle, has been emulated in many outdoor adventure feeds. But Mount Rainier National Park had something to say about it and in the process, educated visitors on something they might not actually know about: you can't just park your car anywhere and sleep in it.
The National Park Service is out to protect natural lands and promote safe and responsible human recreation within the grounds. Highlighting some misnomers will hopefully correct some behaviors. The NPS kept their cool, and in a land of shoot-from-the-hip opinions and vulgar commenters, Mount Rainier's twitter account simply stated the facts and provided information to back it up.
The point of many of these outdoor social feeds is to showcase the outdoors and promote a feeling of wanderlust. They also feature people getting too close to wildlife, illegal locations on private property, and some gray area activities such as the sleeping in a car example above. Yes, you will get many many likes, the outdoors is pretty cool and hip right now, but the problem is the jeopardy you put yourself in and the activities of others that might try to copy your work or destination.
You're probably familiar with #ThatNWBridge and the thousands of photos captured there but do a quick Google search and you'll find that it is located on private property and stories of how the owners have increased police presence and even hidden parts of the trail to detour people from climbing all over the dangerous bridge. Their intention is not to prevent photographers from capturing images there, it's liability and safety. Imagine if someone fell off! The owners of the land would be sued for every last copper cent.
Not trying to sound like a buzzkill here but we all have a responsibility to treat the outdoors with respect and to protect what makes it wild. Some will still trespass, ignore signs and fines, and explore an ice cave in July. Risk is part of what makes outdoor adventure fun, but no photo or Instagram post is worth endangering yourself. Mount Rainier took the high road and simply stated the issue and addressed it kindly by educating the public. Hopefully other organizations will take note and educate the public where they can to keep the wilderness wild and fun.
Do you think social media is causing problems in our National Parks? What more can we do to educate the public about the ethics and laws of the wilderness?
[via The Outdoor Society]