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Aaron

Keeping Wild Spaces Wild: The Ethics of Social Media

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Aaron

In 2012, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild was published. For the one person who does not know about this book, Wild is Strayed’s mid-1990s account of her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. The book was enormously popular. Reaching people who would normally not dream of taking a step on this famous 2700 mile long trail that winds its way through the Sierra, the Cascades, and other famous mountains along the near the West Coast of the United States. Many fans of the book empathized with Strayed’s personal journey of discovery and healing. Others decried how Strayed did not hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail or that her hiking practices were not to be admired. What both parties seem to agree up is that Wild was responsible for the increasing popularity of not only the Pacific Crest Trail but also American long-distance hiking trails in general. But was Wild the catalyst? Or was it something else? In 2012, social media was starting to become part of the everyday fabric. People Tweeted their adventures. Facebook began to become full of anecdotes about people’s epics...

@PaulMags covers the considerations of naming names in regards to wilderness and the potential impacts that social media can have on the wild, with discussion on a possible 8th Leave No Trace / LNT consideration, read the full article below in Issue 36:

Keeping Wild Spaces Wild: The Ethics of Social Media

Wilderness Ethics and the 8th LNT

Issue 36 Page 1

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Aaron

Great article and excellent food for thought. I would say that I've seen examples of this concern not only in social media but in other forms of media as well, although you touched on that a bit and I can see how possibly social media could have the quickest and most noticeable immediate impact. Of course it's all tied together these days anyway, if something is popularized in another manner other than social media, the related hashtags are sure to shortly follow.

As well explained in the article I think finding a good balance is the key. I think of it as "Name the place, not the spot", which to me is a good balance between getting the word out  - which is needed and has a positive impact both now and in the future for these generalized places - but doing so without having a specific spot, campsite, route, etc. being overly impacted. Getting too specific really takes some of the wild out of the wilderness for me anyway...there's nothing quite like choosing your own adventure.

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balzaccom

While I understand the concern about drawing too much attention to a specific place, I also think it is critical that we encourage as many people as possible to get out and have a wonderful adventure in the wilderness.  That's the only way we are going to counteract the policies of politicians who have never done that, may not have done anything wilder than a round of golf.

We need every voter we can get!

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Outlier

Backpacker Magazine recently had a very similar opinion piece:

https://www.backpacker.com/stories/put-a-filter-on-it

Overall it seems like these types of articles are arguing for not using social media in an effort to keep people away from these areas, because once people find these areas they tend to abuse them. I can understand that, but at the same time we want others to enjoy the outdoors. There is a balance to be had.

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PaulMags

Author here.

As I said directly in the article "Obscurity, not secrecy."    Tell about the great place. But perhaps not give the exact breadcrumbs.

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Yellowstone

Perfect timing--I'd been thinking about this topic and here you go--I saw your post a while ago. I've since written a blog piece which will be published January 20 (Saturday). "Obscurity not secrecy" is a perfect description, PaulMags.  https://writingthewild.com/

In the end, the main issue is that we as a species are over-populated. That aside, we walk a fine razors edge between wanting all to experience the magic of the wilderness and the overrunning of those special places that destroy what made them special in the first place

Edited by Yellowstone

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Aaron

Looks like the Leave no Trace Center just published a post in regards to them taking public input on this issue and concern. If these issues are important to you in regards to social media, or any type of media for that matter, here's the link:

https://lnt.org/blog/social-media-and-8th-principle-discussion

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Mark

It is great to see the discussion has begun!

Also, I think the e-mail is "info@lnt.org" per their blog post for comments to be sent to.

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ppine

There is an excellent article in the magazine on the social responsibiltiy we have with media when it comes to wild places.   Many people just automatically want to post photos of their new favorite place and often times remote place.  The next time they go there they may be shocked to realize it is not a secret anymore.  I read Outside magazine once in a while to figure out where not to go.  The new ethics of visiting places in the outdoors should include some sensitivity to not giving away too much information.   It follows as the last step in Leave No Trace Ethics. 

Recently on another forum, we had a new member give a long description with many photos of a petroglyph location in Nevada.  Several people including me appreciated the enthusiasm of the poster, but requested some discretion on the part of the post.  The new member left in a huff never to return.  My perceptioin is that many young people and those that adopt new technology quickly start to take the tech for granted.  They forget to consider the consequences of their actions.   I am slow to adopt new tech and therefore more sensitive to the subject.  This is a topic worth thinking about. 

Edited by ppine
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