By Camille Aubin
Sharing the exact location of a beautiful place on social media may sound banal, yet the repercussions can be disastrous, extending to and including fundamental change to that very place.
A sudden increase in crowds visiting a given place is potentially detrimental to the flora and fauna there. With the influx of extra foot traffic, trails widen, and additional paths will be created by people walking off of the main one and into the surrounding area. And a place that has more people in it certainly offers an entirely different experience. Banff, for instance, feels a million light years different than Invermere. Both are cute mountain towns with a prominent tourism industry. But Banff is chaotic, crowded and confusing. Invermere is only like that a few weekends a year, thank heaves.
The more people there are in nature, the less respect there is for it. Irresponsible gestures such as throwing trash all over the place, leaving toilet paper behind, or throwing cigarettes on the ground are ridiculous in a city, let alone in the great outdoors, yet it is not uncommon to see such bad habits at outdoor spots in both the frontcountry and backcountry. A person generally poops once a day. Where they are dozens of them, and you’ll find quite a lot of smelly surprises throughout the area. This is why heavily visited backcountry sites generally have top notch backcountry toilet facilities: they need them.
Sharing the location of a special place gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy it; be they knowledgeable leave-no-trace outdoor lovers to less enlightened outdoors lovers.
Popularity leads to a loss of authenticity. That may sound trite and arrogant, but have you seen videos showing people waiting in line to take that instantly Instagram-able self in that ‘perfect’ outdoor place? The images look amazing that’s for sure, but surely these ‘selfie lineups’ are at least a little ridiculous. If nine photos taken by nine different people look exactly alike, how unique and special is that experience anyway.
Many locations are less places to experience and commune with nature than an opportunity for influencers to greatly boost their ‘likes’ and popularity on Instagram, Tik Tok or Facebook. This may not be bad in and of itself but if thousands of people are doing this, then real repercussions are a genuine possibility.
To avoid ruining those places you cherish, avoid adding the precise location by simply not “tagging” it in the localization feature, or by selecting a more general location, such as a city or a national park for example. And if someone asks you, judge for yourself whether or not it’s smart to disclose the exact spot. What are the intentions of this person asking for the location? If you’re convince the asker wants to honouring this particular place, discovering and marvelling at its natural splendour, then sharing the location seems right. If in doubt, don’t disclose. The best secrets are secrets for a reason.
I empathise with the author’s point and motivation. I love my wild space wild and my quiet spaces quiet. But to deride someone wanting to take a selfie somewhere beautiful as less authentic assumes they are the arbiter of authenticity. To assume that quiet communion with nature is superior to something else is similarly a subjective value judgement and not an immutable fact. Is wilderness inherently “better” than non-wilderness? If so how? Is it better than a well stocked library or hospital or nice restaurant? No, just different and viewed differently by different people.
This is not dissimilar to censoring “offensive speech”; who gets to decide what is and is not offensive.
Wanting to decide who gets to do something and go somewhere sets a dangerous precedent as tables can always be turned.
Wanting to keep the wild places wild for those who like them that way is the easy first answer for many, but everyone has a right to explore and not everyone hates a selfie (psst, I do too) and their viewpoints matter as much as yours.