Instagram Versus Nature: The Damage Copycat Photographers Are Causing

A near-ubiquitous access to digital photography and a connection to the rest of the world has given this generation of humans unprecedented ability to share a heavily curated lifestyle with the world and vicariously live the lives of others. Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms offer a way to share only what you want with the world. Nobody needs to see anything outside the frame you present. The image and the story you tell are all that matters in a world where people cannot see outside your post. But just what is happening outside that post? What impact does it have on the world at large?

This year at Outpost, a panel was held to discuss just what impact social media and its instant gratification are having on the environment. Although not entirely serious, three social media influencers, Andrew T Kearns, Luisa Jeffery, and Mackenzie Duncan, were called in to give their thoughts on various topics including putting your tent on a cliff and dangling your feet over Horseshoe Bend. In this hour-long discussion filled with hilarity and a ton of takeaways, the group give us plenty to think about when it comes to just how far some people are willing to go for an image. The video above is the full discussion, and this link will take you to a summary of the day’s big takeaways. 

So, what do you think? Is it okay to light a fire in a fire-ban area for a photograph? Do you get tired of the copycat imagery that fills your Instagram feed? Is there anything we can do about this blatant disregard for the environment? Do we need to address this lack of originality? 

[via FieldMag]

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Matthew Saville's picture

Just because photographers may not singlehandedly be the last straw that breaks the camel's back in climate change / global warming, doesn't mean it won't suck if every beautiful place gets trampled and worn out so that future generations can't enjoy it as much.

The fact is, social media has significantly increased the popularity of certain spots that are being extremely over-visited, both by other photographers and tourists alike.

It's not just photographer "influencers" that are to blame, it's social media itself that is the culprit.

Nomad Photographers's picture

don't worry, future generations will most likely be couch potato numpties with their eyes riveted to their phones. They will experience the outdoor virtually because nature will not be able to provide them with the instant gratification they so desperately need... except of course in the rest of the world where everyday life turns around 3 basic necessities : food water and shelter from the war.

Elan Govan's picture

When I was growing up, the nearest phone was a good 2 miles away. Now almost everyone in the local village has a smartphone.....and they are busy sharing. I have come to the conclusion that we humans have been waiting for this day for a long time.

I just saw a very disturbing image of a young women being flogged in public and the audience present were busy capturing this punishment with their smartphones.

Kirk Darling's picture

I think there is a difference between a photographer and a derring-doer-with-a-camera.

Deleted Account's picture

Not sure what is meant by "copy cat imagery." I guess... if I don't want to keep seeing photos of say... the Matterhorn, then I stop following that group.

Social Media... any form of communication, is what I make of it. How it suits my needs. It's curious to me... when AOL, MySpace, and then Facebook evolved... the masses were enthralled with sharing their life's minutiae. Now... a threshold seems to have been reached, glut happens... and those same people are harshly judging, looking down on even their own FB friends for daring to post about a frustrating day.

I've surpassed the half-century mark. Long enough to see plenty of fads come and go. What I miss most... is that manners and social courtesies seem to have disappeared. However, just like "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Photography doesn't harm the environment... it is the asshats who refuse to follow reasonable rules!

Ever been to Yellowstone National Park? I won't go back. Tripods set up in the middle of the road with idiots behind them, while I was trying to drive on that road?!? Shameful.

Elan Govan's picture

This is the thing with "reasonable rules" and the interpretation of it, especially when it comes to social media and its world wide coverage.

Kyle Medina's picture

"Is there anything we can do about this blatant disregard for the environment?"

Currently here in Colorado there is place called Hanging Lake. Has increased in visitor volume drastically and which has brought on a lot of graffiti too. Now there is very nice boardwalk that was built so you can take in this falls which gives access to a floating log. This floating log a sign right in front of it saying do not walk on log. You have to physical walk around the sign to get on the log. So there is no way to miss the sign. There recently has been a proposal to make the site accessible by permit/registration only.

Now in this wake of a proposal an Instagram account by the name trailtrashco. Which is being used for public shaming individuals who blatantly share themselves doing illegal activities around Colorado parks and national parks. Which has actually led to a couple of fines by the forest service. This has also spawned IG accounts for Utah and another state.

"Do we need to address this lack of originality?"

If its all within legal areas, just ignore it. Its not your problem or need to worry about. Keep creating your own images and let everyone else do what they want. If people want to "copy" whatever, that's their life and lack of creativity.