Wait…so should we tag our locations? Whether or not we should tag our locations in the outdoors has become quite the hot topic within the outdoor industry. There are people on both side of the argument who feel strongly that their opinion is best for the industry as a whole. To be honest I myself hadn’t given the idea much thought until the past few years, upon learning more about each side. The rise of social media has drastically shaped the outdoor industry and how the population as a whole interacts with nature. With a few simple clicks we can travel the world through pictures discovering places we never even knew existed. So, why do some people think we shouldn’t tag our locations?
OVERTOURISM: More photos, and tags on social media, inherently leads to more tourism for a region. Unfortunately, the places being tagged can’t always support larger crowds. If a small town in home to a breath-taking lake, and a major account tags it, it’s likely that they won’t be able to handle the influx of travelers; parking, bathrooms, restaurants, hotels, etc. While tourism is good to some extent, too much of it can be incredibly damaging to a local community. LEAVE NO TRACE: The more people that go to a place, the more likely the nature in the region is likely to be damaged. This is often because not everyone is aware of the “Leave No Trace” guidelines. Many people turn to the incident with wild fields of poppies is California. A few Instagram accounts tagged the location and in the days that followed thousands of people flocked to the fields. Many of these people didn’t practice “Leave No Trace” guidelines and walked through the fields or even laid down in them, ultimately leading to the field’s destruction.
EXPLOITATION: Many hiking and/or skiing locations may hold cultural significance to a group of individuals, often Native populations. The more people that come to a place, the more likely it is that the region, and its resources, will exploited, disregarding the cultural significance that it holds.
You may read that list and suddenly feel like we should never tag our locations. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of people in recent years get utterly frustrated with how many more people are at hiking trails and/or ski resorts; often saying they wish things could go back to how they were a few decades ago. So, why do so many others think we should still tag our location? ARGUMENTS FOR
Not tagging, or shaming someone for doing so, is Environmental Gatekeeping. Wishing for “things to be as they used to” is deeply embedded with privilege. It is saying that only certain people should be allowed to have access to the outdoors; more often than not that means wealthy white people. It is important to remember that growing up having access to the outdoors, or learning about places to go, is a privilege. Just because someone started hiking earlier in life doesn’t mean they are more entitled to outdoor spaces. When we tag our locations, we are helping to make outdoor spaces more accessible, diverse, and inclusive.
Now maybe you’re feeling conflicted on what to do. Like many people you want to protect outdoor spaces but you don’t want to be Environmental Gatekeeping. My suggestions for when it comes to the next steps:
· Practice “Leave No Trace” on the trail and in your photos. Talk to others about these practices and encourage others to do the same.
· Learn about the Native land you are on. The app “Native Land” helps identify this so you can acknowledge these spaces whether or not you choose to post a photo.
· Show the real picture. Instagram is a highlight reel so do your best to depict the real photo; be open about your experience, crowds, views, etc.
· Perhaps tag a region rather than a specific location. If someone has questions about your photo or sends you a message with questions, answer them or tell them where they can find more information about the hike/trail.
· Especially if you have a big following, understand the responsibility that comes with posting photos and tagging your location. Recreate responsibly and encourage your following to do the same.
What it really comes down to is not shaming others for tagging their locations AND understanding the privilege that comes with having access or knowledge about the outdoors. Being privileged doesn't mean you are more worthy of the outdoors. The outdoors are for all, not just those who know where to go.