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Geotagging Nature – Gatekeeping Or Conservation?

Geotagging nature

If you aren’t familiar with geotagging, it is a feature on platforms like Instagram that allows users to tag the specific location of where they took a picture. As an outdoor enthusiast and full-time outdoor content creator, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this hot topic issue.

 

This post dives into the topic of geotagging nature – is it gatekeeping or conservation

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When we share stunning locations with precise geotags, we introduce more people to the beauty of the outdoors, encouraging exploration and appreciation. This is a good thing!

 

However, the surge in popularity can have unintended consequences, putting these fragile ecosystems at risk due to over-tourism and increased human impact.

 

Striking a balance between sharing our love for nature and protecting it becomes crucial in this digital age of adventure. This post is designed to explore the complexities of geotagging and find ways to be responsible stewards of the places we hold dear.

Geotagging nature
Geotagging nature

Anti-geotagging nature

In theory, geotagging provides context for posts. But for wild outdoor places, geotags are resulting in increased traffic, environmental damage, and encroachment upon wildlife and delicate ecosystems.

 

Even Leave No Trace, who has been around for more than 40 years, recently published a social media guide. In the guide, they discourage geotagging specific locations. Instead, they suggest tagging general locations because it can lead to major impacts on particular wild places.

 

As outdoor enthusiasts, it’s crucial for us to be mindful of the potential consequences of our actions and find ways to share our experience while preserving the natural places we love.

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Pro-geotagging nature

While some argue against geotagging due to concerns about environmental impact and over-tourism, it’s essential to acknowledge the counter-arguments that view not geotagging as a form of gatekeeping, racism, or elitism.

 

In her blog post, 5 reasons why you should keep geotagging, the author Danielle Williams points out that the reluctance to geotag certain outdoor spaces can be seen as a way for individuals, often those unaffected by structural racism and who grew up with greater access to outdoor activities, to assert authority over who should or shouldn’t be allowed in those spaces.

 

This argument highlights how withholding geotags might unintentionally perpetuate exclusivity in outdoor communities, hindering diverse representation and equal opportunities for enjoying nature.

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Reading that article made me reflect on my own privileged upbringing, where camping and hiking were regular family activities. I was fortunate to have the tools and resources needed to discover beautiful places. Yet, my heart aches when I venture into the wild and encounter trash, graffiti, and damaged trails.

 

I believe that everyone should have access to public land, no matter gender, ethnicity, size, age, skin color, ability, or disability.

 

While I strongly advocate for equal access to public lands, I also believe in responsible outdoor exploration. Everyone should have the right to experience these breathtaking places, but it comes with the responsibility of being prepared and following the Leave No Trace principles.

 

I am a firm believer in the “know before you go” approach, which includes proper planning and understanding the challenges that lie ahead. It’s essential to equip ourselves with knowledge and necessary supplies to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure!

Geotagging poses a lot of big questions

Geotagging raises important questions that don’t have easy answers, leaving each of us to carefully consider how our online actions impact nature.

 

In my view, caring for these places isn’t about excluding people; it’s about educating them on responsible practices when enjoying nature’s beauty. By teaching others how to respect and protect these precious landscapes, we empower them to become stewards of the environment.

Geotagging and Influencers

As social media users and content creators, we all bear the responsibility of how we share our experiences online.

 

As an outdoor influencer, my approach centers around balancing enthusiasm for nature with conservation. I opt to tag general areas or states, such as “Arizona,” avoiding specific locations that could be overwhelmed with visitors.

 

However, I’m more than willing to respond to location inquiries in comments or direct messages.

Additionally, if I don’t want to disclose a particular spot on social media, I refrain from sharing content from that location entirely

 

While withholding location information in the name of conservation may seem responsible on the surface, it can also lead to unintended consequences like gatekeeping. When people don’t take the time to educate their audience on responsible recreation, it can perpetuate a sense of exclusivity and limit access to outdoor spaces for those who may genuinely be interested in exploring and respecting nature.

 

Instead of completely withholding information, we can take the opportunity to educate our audience about the importance of Leave No Trace principles, sustainable hiking practices, and respecting wildlife and fragile ecosystems. This way, we empower our followers to be responsible stewards of nature, whether they are visiting popular destinations or lesser-known spots.

Adventure Blog | Yosemite National Park

In the cases where sharing specific locations could lead to environmental damage or overcrowding, opting for more general geotags like state or national park names can be a thoughtful approach. This provides a sense of inspiration for others to explore without putting undue stress on the land.

 

On the other hand, if there are places we hold dear that we feel should remain unshared, don’t post content from those locations. This decision should be made with the intention of protecting the land’s integrity and ensuring that it remains unharmed by an influx of visitors.

What you can do about geotagging

Instagram is ruining nature

When sharing your outdoor adventures on social media, there are three impactful actions you can take to spread information and promote stewardship awareness:

 

  • Teach your audience about Leave No Trace: A powerful way to educate your audience about responsible outdoor practices is by incorporating Leave No Trace principles into your content strategy and captions. Share important details about the location, such as whether it requires a permit, specific gear, or specialized skills. By doing so, you empower your followers with essential information to plan their own trips responsibly, encouraging them to be well-prepared and respectful of the environment they’ll be exploring.
  • Reflect on Your Intentions: Before geotagging or sharing a location, ask yourself why you are doing it in the first place. If you have concerns about a place being overwhelmed by visitors, consider whether it’s necessary to share its precise location. Instead, focus on highlighting the beauty of the natural landscape and the experiences you enjoyed without explicitly disclosing the location. This approach allows you to inspire and engage your audience without contributing to potential overcrowding or environmental impact.

  • Remember this is a complex issue: While it is easy to make content creators and influencers the scapegoat of this complicated problem, remember that everyone who posts on social media is part of the problem. This includes tourism boards, brands, repost pages (such as Welcome to Arizona), and social media users that have any number of followers. 
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Final Thoughts On Geotagging Nature

At the end of the day, it’s not my role to dictate who can enjoy the outdoors and where they can explore. It’s not about deciding who will care for nature or not. Instead, I choose to foster a welcoming and inclusive community where everyone feels encouraged to connect with nature in responsible ways.

 

My DMs and comment section are ALWAYS open to anyone who wants to see these places but aren’t sure how to start, what gear they need (or don’t), how to research hikes, etc.

 

If people genuinely want to know the location of my photo, of course, I’ll share it – with the information they need to do it safely and responsibly. 

 

Ultimately, the geotagging decision is a personal one, and opinions may differ. What matters most is fostering a compassionate and understanding dialogue. So, what do you think? Geotag or no geotag?

 

Let’s remember to be kind to one another and uphold a culture of positivity and respect, as shaming or bullying is never the answer. Together, we can promote responsible outdoor practices and preserve the natural places we love!

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Meet the author

Jacey West

My mission is simple: Inspire you to get outside. I like camping, hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, and exploring National Parks. I’m passionate about sharing all the details of my adventure so you can plan some of your own!

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