Is Social Media Ruining the Outdoors?


It could very well be, but we can use it to save the outdoors too.

 Christina Adele Warburg capturing a selfie with a fellow ranger in the Yosemite National Park.

Christina Adele Warburg capturing a selfie with a fellow ranger in the Yosemite National Park.

In today’s social-savvy world, a place where people can now make a career out of being a social influencer, there is an extreme power behind social platforms. You can discover the outdoors in an instant right from your phone and get some inspiration for your next camping or backpacking excursion. Personally, I aim to use social media as a tool to share my stories and experiences in order to inspire others to do something different and outside of their usual routine. I want to show others that the great outdoors are more accessible than they think. You have the power to use your social media platform to preserve and educate others about the outdoors, but you have the power to ruin them too.

If an instagram influencer with tens of thousands of followers posts a photo of their incredible view, campsite, or cool spot they’ve discovered, then their followers will want to go there too. The thing is, they can.  with geotags on most photos, followers can find exactly where the picture was taken. Then they too can capture the same shot that inspired them to go in the first place. Original, right? Due to this extremely easy access to the outdoors and the ability to discover once low-key and lightly treaded hiking trails and campsites, there are some problems that are coming into play. Certain locations that may have only had a few visiting groups a weekend, are now hosting hundreds because of these influencer posts. Hiking trails that were once lightly treaded on are now experiencing a significant increase in traffic. The big question is, can these places handle this kind of visitation? Furthermore, what if an influencer posts a photo from a trail that was closed off or that they had to hop the fence to get to? Well, their followers will most likely do the same as that action was validated by the massive amount of “likes” and positive comments on that influencer’s post. This can cause some serious destruction to our beloved outdoors.

Christina Adele Warburg, a conservationist, park ranger, and explorer for the Outbound, wrote about this same issue: social media and it’s impact on the outdoors. I think this excerpt from her article is very eye-opening to social media’s power and impact on the environment:

“Not every action is so extreme. It’s the small, subtle actions that add up to harm the most beautiful areas in the world. It’s hopping fences, going into closed areas, feeding wildlife, picking flowers, camping illegally, swimming in protected waters, and bringing our pets into protected backcountry. It can be hard for some to understand how just one person doing these things could possibly be a big deal. the problem is, it’s not just one person - it’s hundreds of people influencing thousands of people up to millions of people.”

I don’t want to leave it at that and say there is no hope and because of social media, the outdoors as we know it will be destroyed. Because we can use social media for good, to protect and provide outdoor education to the public. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Don’t geotag specific locations. be vague. encourage your followers to do some exploration and discover beautiful places on their own. 
  • Caption your posts with information about the realities of climate change, deforestation, and other issues the great outdoors face to spread social awareness.
  • Educate your followers about how to care for and protect nature by following policies like Leave No Trace and other rules specific to different national parks.
  • Set a good example and don’t post pictures that will encourage others to break rules or disrespect nature.

All in all, I do believe social media is causing some destruction to the outdoors because people are simply doing things for the picture. “Do it for the gram,” as they say. Let’s stop trying to impress others and rather inform, encourage, and share stories and personal experiences to create a positive and more authentic outdoor experience for all. I believe if we leverage our social media influence in an environmentally positive light, then we can slowly move away from the negative effects of social media on nature. I love being able to immerse myself in natural beauty and work from mountain peaks and beside lakes, but being respectful to the earth and wildlife is my number one priority. Be mindful of your actions when exploring the outdoors and do it for the sole experience, not just the picture to post on instagram, facebook, pinterest, or what have you. think outside.