I love nature and I really enjoy social media. This summer, more than ever, I noticed a connection between the two that made me a little uncomfortable. People are exploiting nature for the sake of a great selfie or lots of “likes”. And it needs to stop.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing my pictures and adventures on social media as much as the next person. But, I am not driven to take unnecessary risks just to get a great shot. This summer, there were two types of social media posts that I noticed were extremely prevalent and extremely dangerous.
The first type of social media post was typically on nature-based Facebook pages where amateur photographers shared pictures of animals in their natural habitat. What made me uncomfortable about some of these pictures is that many were taken a short distance away from the animal and it is likely that the photographer disturbed the natural habitat in some way in order to get the picture. The more contact, good, bad, or neutral, which an animal has with humans increases the risk of conflict. Many professional photographers have training, experience, and impeccably high standards when it comes to photographing wildlife and they leave virtually no trace behind. It is unlikely that the majority of amateur photographers have that same standard of care when they are getting their shots.
The second type of social media post that I saw frequently over the summer was people who were continuing to engage in outdoor recreational activities without regard to the wildlife trying to co-exist in the same area. I am lucky enough to live near the Rocky Mountains, and there has been a significant amount of bear activity along popular trails this year. Despite multiple warnings, numerous closures, and attempts to educate the public about outdoor recreation etiquette, I continually saw posts with things like garbage and food left out at unattended campsites, dogs off leash in designated on-leash areas, off-road vehicles being used in sensitive areas, and people trying to get into a picture with wild animals. I know that being in nature is exciting and of course it is natural to want to share that excitement with the people in your life. It is not natural to risk the life of another species who really doesn’t have much say in the matter.
Social media has the power to be such a powerful tool for all of us, but only if we use it appropriately. Obviously, I want to hear all about your nature adventures! There are ways that we can continue to have incredible experiences without grossly interfering with what is happening around us. Here are a few tips:
- Bring your binoculars and enjoy viewing wildlife from a safe distance.
- If you know there are closures or warnings in a certain area, stay away. You will have plenty of time in your life to take on those trails but the animals only have the summer months to get enough fat and nutrients to survive the winter.
- Do some extreme adventuring right where you are. Check out the urban nature exploration opportunities in your own city.
- Think before you take a picture. Be aware of your surroundings, potential hazards, and animals nearby. If it isn’t safe to take a picture, find another area so that you will live to selfie another day.
If it doesn’t seem like any fun to be on an adventure during which you can’t capture an extreme selfie to share on social media, it might be time to examine a few things.