You were just on the adventure of a lifetime. You got the most amazing photos, and saw maybe the most beautiful sight you’ll ever lay eyes on. It was exhilarating, moving, emotional; you have to share it with as many people as possible. Maybe you’re an outdoor influencer, maybe you’re passionate about sharing access to the outdoors; your motivations are undoubtedly wholesome, but here’s why you need to be careful.
But ASA, that’s gatekeeping.
We may seem like stingy locals, but the truth is just the opposite. There is so much value in pristine spaces, and it is crucial that the value is retained for years to come. We are so happy you had an incredible experience, and we want people to continue to have incredible experiences when they come. However, when small, relatively unprotected attractions are subject to a sudden influx of uneducated visitors due to going viral, they are oftentimes destroyed within mere months. It’s not just about crowding, but also erosion, trampling of vegetation, multiple trailing, water pollution, etc. Oftentimes, protection for these natural spaces can take years to put into place, if the powers that be think it’s even worth it. The speedy nature of social media and viral sensations simply do not allow for appropriate infrastructure to be built in time to accommodate new crowds.
We’re not saying you should never post again. By all means, post those beautiful, bad ass photos, but think twice before you tag the location for all to see. Many influencers have actually increased engagement by requiring followers to DM about a specific location if they want the info! But if you’re set on using that tagline, here’s some guidelines for how to do so ethically.
Be Vague: Try tagging the nearest city or state, instead of specific trailheads, roads, or coordinates.
Make Your Followers Work for it: No one is entitled to your information. Encourage your followers to do their own research and find their own adventures.
Encourage Stewardship: Share local resources and guidance on how to recreate responsibly in that area.
Share Problematic Behavior: Don’t share photos of yourself doing anything dangerous or damaging to the environment.
Tag Specific Coordinates: Tagging trails and overviews can lead to destruction from overuse.
Tag “Secret” Havens: If a local is kind enough to share a little known trail or watering hole, this is the best way to make them regret it. Oftentimes, these places do not have the protections or policies that more established parks enjoy.
Post while you’re out: Save the post until after your safe return home. Sharing your location while there has proven to be dangerous, especially for women.
There are a lot of buzzwords and sensitive topics when it comes to access and the internet. Everyone deserves access and enjoyment of the outdoors. No one, especially those who are willfully ignorant of their responsibility to preserve the integrity of their public lands, is entitled to your information or location. It’s a delicate balance between actual gatekeeping and simply protecting the environment for future use, and it falls upon your shoulders to decide how you will contribute to the effort.