Using Social Media in the Great Outdoors

Published On November 3, 2022

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Most of us have done it. We see that great mountain vista or your dog being cute out on the trail, and we can’t help to snap a photo (or 10) and immediately post it on our social media channels for our friends to see.

Social media is relatively new, but sits towards the top of things in our lives which are both a blessing and a curse. It seems the whole world loves posting that “hidden spot” in the outdoors, and before long, that hidden spot becomes not so hidden – leaving you fighting for a parking spot at the trailhead.

Whether your “poison” is Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or TikTok, here are some tips for using social media responsibly while enjoying nature.

Try Not to Geotag a Specific Spot

Our natural world is not 100% renewable. If a certain location gets too many visitors, it could cause irreparable damage. That’s the main reason the National Park Service and other outdoor staff work so hard to create designated trails for people to use. If you want to tag a certain spot, geotag the general area instead of an exact location.

For example, tag the park you are in, not the precise coordinates of the spot where you saw a momma bear and her cubs. Otherwise, you risk leading a crowd to the exact spot, causing disruption to the natural area. If someone really wants to dig deep to find that spot, they will, but at least you’ll be doing your part not to send everyone there. Better yet, if you’re staying at a campground near there, tag it – the campground will enjoy more than a few visitors.

The practice of geotagging a specific location is known as “spot burning.” Such as a specific spot on a lake where you caught that prize trout. If you tag that spot and post it on social media, then all the anglers descend on it, and overfishing will occur, causing problems for the ecosystem.

Great Backgrounds are Found, Not Made

To get the perfect outdoor picture, don’t alter a natural site just to get that perfect shot. Being in nature is a privilege that improves both physical and mental health. Take as many photos as you like, but remember to leave no trace. There are plenty of spectacular backgrounds to be discovered just as they are. Don’t manipulate a scene just to make it look good. Do that later in photoshop, if you must.

Respect the Flora and Fauna

Something as simple as walking on a wildflower can cause damage for years to come. When in doubt, always stay on designated trails (signs will usually remind you of this, but it’s good practice nevertheless.) Each plant is part of a larger ecosystem that depends on it. Lying in that field of flowers or snapping a few branches to get to a larger object may seem like a good idea for that perfect Instagram shot, but in reality, can have a devastating butterfly effect on the area.

Likewise for the wildlife. We know, it can be extremely exciting when you happen upon some buffalo, a majestic herd of elk, or the elusive black bear, but please keep your distance at all costs and photograph from afar (know how to use your zoom lens). We’ve all seen the headlines of people getting too close and paying the price. Not only can it be dangerous, but we are also guests in their home, so be respectful.

Yes, Even Respect the Rocks

Rocks are not living things, but they do service living things. Don’t be tempted to move them to make a great photo. Many animals make their homes underneath rocks, and moving them can harm or even kill the animal, or its eggs. Even if you plan to replace it, just the act of moving it can mess with the fragile ecosystem.

Always Stay on the Trail

As stated above, park officials create these trails for your benefit, but also for the benefit of the environment. It’s just good practice – staying on the trails helps keep the area beautiful for all and for future visitors. Stepping off the trails causes erosion of the landscape that literally takes hundreds of years to regrow, especially in alpine conditions.