Scroll through your social media feeds these days & you’ll discover millions of photos that showcase the grandeur of the great outdoors.
From stellar mountain sunrises to brilliant & expansive landscapes, these images alone can increase our feelings of awe, contendedness & curiosity and subsequently reduce anger, tiredness & stress.
Yet despite this good news, there’s a downside to these awe-inspiring shots.
Social media “influencers” – as they’re often called – can be paid hundreds if not thousands of dollars for a sponsored post, depending upon their reach.
They can also get free gear, travel for free & enjoy other sweet perks in addition to (or instead of) payment for sponsored posts.
But as some recreationists clammer for social media stardom, the outdoors is paying the price.
The Downside of Social Media
To be clear, social media can be a fabulous tool.
It provides a window into parts of the country – and the world – that many people will never see, offer us a glimpse into new places we’re still aching to explore, share research, highlight local wildlife & help like-minded nature lovers to connect with one another.
But, per the usual, some dimwits insist on proving why we can’t have nice things – using this platform as a way to showcase their narcissism & either directly or indirectly encouraging others to follow suit.
I won’t link to their photos or posts here, because I’m not keen on offering them additional attention.
But if you haven’t seen them for yourselves, they include gems such as camping above treeline in the White Mountain National Forest (which is specifically prohibited), starting campfires in areas where they aren’t permitted, trampling sensitive plants in fragile habitats, carving their name into boulders & trees, and posing with wild animals…just to name a few.
And what’s so infuriating about many of these “recreationists” is their faux adoration for & promotion of the outdoors.
Because it’s a massive, steaming pile of horseshit.
Their work does nothing to advocate for respectful outdoor recreation, protection of natural resources, or wildlife conservation.
So, let’s be real here:
They don’t give a shit about nature at all.
They give a shit about popularity.
They give a shit about likes, comments, shares & followers.
They give a shit about the deafening praise for their “awesome” shots & “epic” adventures.
They give a shit about being perceived as a renegade, rulebreaker & all-around badass.
They give a shit about being the envy of others.
They give a shit about their own goddamn egos.
Yes, they give a shit about a lot of things.
But make no mistake – nature is not one of them.
The outdoors is merely a means to an end.
A vehicle through which they can boost their self-worth – which would be gasping for air like a nearly-drowned rat if they ever lost their fan base.
And what’s worse – it creates a rabbithole of douchebaggery that lures other wannabe social media stars into posting similar shots in an effort to build their own following.
Again, it’s important to be clear here:
We’re not talking about taking & sharing photos from the trail if you’re doing so responsibly.
We’re not talking about sharing your awesome camping trip that followed LNT principles.
And we’re not talking about using social media as a platform to promote positivity & respect outdoors – or even seeking to become an influencer in this regard.
We’re talking about people who are experienced enough to know the rules – but blatantly disregard them for their own gain.
And in doing so, they put these areas at risk not only as a result of their own actions, but by promoting the idea that this activity is acceptable – thereby encouraging others to do the same.
So what can we do?
The best-case scenario would be for these twerps to recognize the err in their ways & voluntarily stop with the nonsense.
And if they really wanted to be the badass they claim to be, they could channel their energy into much more productive endeavors, including (but not limited to):
- Working with professional photographers to document habitat loss & destruction across the globe.
- Using their skills to highlight the plight of threatened & endangered species & fragile habitats.
- Volunteering with organizations or agencies that would allow them behind-the-scenes “access” & entry into areas that they wouldn’t normally be able to explore.
- Obtaining a formal degree or training in ecology, conservation biology, wildlife biology, fisheries, or forestry & spend thousands of hours in the field enduring conditions that would make Ronnie Coleman curl up & cry – all in an effort to improve the world around them.
But…how many of them are signing up?
So, they’re going to need a little encouragement.
That’s where you come in….
First & foremost, always do your best to share photos that set a good example. It doesn’t mean that you can’t joke around or be light-hearted, but be careful about images that highlight questionable activity or that might promote the idea that they’re okay.
Second, it’s easy to forget ourselves as we scroll through our news & photo feeds, but it pays to be more mindful of the images we support.
By liking & commenting on their photos – even if they ARE beautiful shots – we’re only feeding into their egos & emboldening them to do more of the same.
So before you like, share, or comment on a photo or post, pay attention to its context & location to be sure that you’re not inadvertently contributing to this nonsense.
If you think that someone’s made a genuine error as a result of inexperience, you can remind them gently & politely why what they’re doing is suspect.
But if you know that they know better, you can either speak your mind or scroll by without giving them the attention they so desperately crave.
As I’ve said before – and as I advocate on the regular – I’m all for getting people outside.
But we have a collective responsibility to do so with respect, courtesy & integrity.
Not to mention plain old common sense.
If a sign is requesting that you stay away from certain features – stay away from them.
If there are restrictions on how, when, or where you can camp – follow them.
If a trail is closed – find another one.
And if you aren’t willing to do these things, please do us all a favor & keep your ass at home.
For more tips on behaving outdoors, visit “How not to be a douchebag during your ‘epic’ adventure.”