I love nature. I’m just a big ol’ earth-loving, flower-child hippie at heart. Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you that if you can’t get a hold of me, it’s probably because I’ve taken off somewhere secluded for an impromptu camping trip. Hiking, spelunking, rock climbing, bouldering, I’ve done it all.

When I’m not in nature, I’m reading about it, figuring out the next place I’ll visit, or simply scrolling through social media enviously looking at others’ beautiful photos.

Often, I see a beautifully scenic photo and I know immediately where that photo was taken because the photographer geotagged it. It’s great! I don’t have to do any research, and I can start planning how I will get there, where I will stay, and what I’ll do there.

Geotagging is so convenient, amiright?? Well…it turns out that it’s actually a major contributing factor to the demise of our national parks.

A Brief History of National Parks

In 1872, Yellowstone and the territories of Montana and Washington were created, “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people” (side note: “pleasuring-ground” might be the grossest phrase I’ve ever heard.)

In the early days, the lucky, adventurous few trekked out on their own to photograph the “wild” west. Many of these individuals did not return. People were aware of the risks prior to their voyage, yet nevertheless went in an attempt to photograph and show others the beauty of this new, undiscovered land.

Fast forward to 1916 and ta-da we have a National Parks Service, “which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Think about it: since the birth of the cosmos (trillions upon trillions of years ago), our national parks and the wonders of the world have been shaped, developed, and created through natural phenomena. They’ve survived the harshest of storms – ones we can’t even fathom. Countless animals (many of whom are extinct today) impacted the land in some way. These natural wonders have been around, and have held strong and even been shaped by incomprehensible conditions. 

And yet, even they can’t withstand the iPhone.

Geotagging

You know when you see a photo on social media, and you think to yourself, “Wow! Where is that? I want to go there!” More often than not, it’s of a restaurant or store. On Facebook, you can “check in” at a place to share where you are with your followers. It’s quite a handy tool, and allows for individuals to share their favorite hot spots with their friends and followers.

That being said, many times, people geotag where they are at on their latest outdoor adventure. And more often than not, these beautiful spots are incredibly secluded and unknown. That’s what makes them so damn perfect.

Essentially, simply geotagging and posting about your most recent camping trip creates a feedback loop:

  1. You go camping in a relatively unknown area
  2. You post a picture to Facebook or Instagram, and geotag where you are
  3. Others see this, know where it is, and choose to visit
  4. Additional vehicular traffic leads to pollution and the need for a parking lot
  5. Increased foot traffic leads to erosion and land displacement
  6. More visitors leads to safety concerns, and potentially adding safety measures (guardrails, rock slide nets, etc.)
  7. Repeat steps 1-6 until the natural wonder has become commercialized and/or destroyed

Geotagging has become such a problem that many people aren’t geotagging where they are. Others have seen what happens when a natural wonder becomes popularized, and prefer to keep their hidden gems just that: hidden.

Social Media and Nature

In today’s world, it’s impossible to go to any social media platform and not see a beautiful scenic photo. And for people like me, it’s impossible to not think “I want to go there.”

But when it comes to geotagging, you may want to stop and think if you really, truly want to share where you are at. In my opinion, go on ahead – geotag your favorite small business or pizza parlor. I want to know about those places!

But when it comes to nature, maybe it’s best to keep those hidden gems just that – hidden. Sure, it may mean that when I (or others like me), scroll through their news feed that they won’t know immediately where that beautiful photo was taken. But that’s fine! Just find your own hidden gem, there’s plenty out there, you just have to look for them.

Have an opinion on this topic? Share your thoughts with me on Twitter: @lydiacecile.

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