Social Media ethics

An article I wrote in TrailGroove was recently published: Keeping Wild Spaces Wild – The Ethics of Social Media. 

A companion piece of sorts to my earlier Bread Crumbs article, the newer material also suggests obscurity, not secrecy. 

Social media is a powerful tool for advocacy, education, and awareness.

But, as with any tool, it can become damaging.  Obscure places can be come overrun. Popular areas are abused. And the outdoor experience becomes a checkmark off the list.

The article I wrote advocates a balance. And I think the article came out well. Check it out.

EDIT: And, like most internet articles, people will comment without actually Reading The Fine Article.  People tend to have black and white views only. A nuanced and informed discussion is often lost online.  So it goes.


14 Replies to “Social Media ethics”

  1. thank you, quite in agreement – the 8th Leave no Trace principle makes sense to me.

    As an angler and hunter every stream I mention is Lost Creek, every lake is Lost Lake.. there are so many of these in the US West that I might even be telling the truth sometimes 😉

    1. I’m partial to “Spring Creek.” I would not be surprised to find that one (at least!) of those exists in every state.

  2. This is a great write up and I remember the bread crumbs article well. I’ve been coming back all day to this post, trying to write a comment that encapsulates my evolving thoughts on this issue.
    Without writing an essay in your comments section, I got to thinking: In light of the election and continued assault on public lands; was directing people to that wilderness loop in the form of a detailed post such a bad thing after all?
    I say that knowing it’s a tough balance and this is a complex issue, and my personal opinion here is that you probably created more advocates vs damage by a long shot, but you’d be a better judge of that because you can go there and see how it changes over the years. Anecdotally speaking, the places I see that’re blown up or clearly damaged due to IG/social media tend to be right off a road with less than a mile to hike, if that.

  3. Social media definitely creates a social dilemma about the wilderness. But is hard to isolate social media from the increasingly mobile populations in proximity to wilderness. As an old geezer (I am 64) I am amazed and somewhat disappointed at the impact created by the low cost of entry to wilderness. The cost is not only in terms of low cost transportation, cost of gear, permits, etc. but the reduced risk that comes with the availability of GPS, locator beacons, detailed electronic maps, water reports at our finger tips and the many other technologically driven sources of “security”. People who never would have considered taking the risks are now out and on the trails. So, is it sharing experiences or reduced risks that are the leading contributors? There is no doubt that much of the shared knowledge about risk reduction does happen through social medial; so, maybe it is just the evolution of society that makes wild places less wild? Even more pertinent perhaps is to ask about a solution. The genie will not go back in the bottle.

  4. I really enjoyed the TrailGroove article and appreciate your perspective on this. I think the balance you suggest is an excellent idea. Thanks for helping get this idea out there and sparking conversations.

    For me what I really hope to see if people getting excited about the wilderness in general — not only getting excited about specific places. There is a lot out there to explore!

  5. Paul,
    Good thought piece. No great answers, other than to continue to encourage people to create their own adventures. I suppose we can each also quietly discourage magazines and online sites from publishing “top ten lists” and “bucket list adventures”. (The Gazette down here in Colorado Springs is horrible about it.) An the extreme would be to ask the Colorado Trail Foundation to stop publishing the CT Guide. Somewhere there is a middle ground.

    Similar to your article, I enjoyed Brendan’s piece where he found a great campsite and deliberately would not publish info about it:

    There was also a great article (maybe in Outside magazine?) about the rock in Norway where you wait over a hour to get your picture taken, just because it is an iconic shot that thousands of others have already posted online. So many other great places to go instead.

    On the comical side (or absurd), the “Olympic City” commission here in Colorado Springs arranged for the installation of an 8 foot by 12 foot Big Blue Frame in a spot in the Garden of the Gods where there is a nice overlook to Pikes Peak. They thought it would be a great magnet for tourists to snap photos and post them, leading to great “branding” of COS as The Olympic City. At first, they planned to leave it up for one year before considering a move, but the public outcry was so huge that they ripped it out in less than a week. Small victories.

    All the best for adventuring in 2018!

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