The Current

Why these thrill-seekers are reluctant to geotag the stunning sites they find

Is social media — and the pursuit of the perfect Instagram picture — changing how we interact with nature? And what are the effects on the environment?

Sharing remote beauty spots online can draw huge crowds, putting personal safety and the environment at risk

Is social media — and the pursuit of the perfect Instagram picture — changing how we interact with nature? (Pixabay/StockSnap)

Read Story Transcript

Social media is a great way to promote outdoor pursuits, according to a freestyle cliff jumper. But he draws the line at sharing locations when he posts pictures and videos of his stunts online.

"It's too dangerous," said Robert Wall, who makes a living performing his jumps and filming those of others.

"We don't know who these people online are," he told The Current's guest host Mike Finnerty. "We can't just give out a spot and feel liable for their safety."

High on Life online adventurers killed at B.C. waterfall

The National

3 years ago
It's not clear what exactly happened to Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper, but their deaths have resonated around the world. 2:07

Earlier this week, adventurers Ryker Gamble, Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper died in an accident at Shannon Falls near Squamish, B.C. Gamble was part of a YouTube travel vlog called High On Life, in which he travelled the world performing high-octane stunts. The circumstances around their deaths are not clear.

The deaths were tragic, said Wall, who has had his own close calls.

Robert Wall has a close call in Lake Tahoe

But in addition to the safety risks, Wall said he doesn't geotag his posts because areas of natural beauty may be overrun by people who won't respect them.

Damage to the environment

Molly McHugh, staff writer at The Ringer — a sports and pop culture website — also doesn't tag locations online because "secret spots are precious and a geotagging is overrunning them."

Remote spots used to be seen as reserved for people experienced with outdoor pursuits, she said. But social media posts from people you know or follow can make exotic places seem more accessible.

"The internet and social media has democratized the outdoors," she said.

While that's promoted the outdoors to a wider audience, McHugh said it does pose new challenges.

"There is the problem of trail overcrowding," she said. "There are problems that people don't know about 'Leave No Trace' practices.

"So then we have issues with our environment being degraded because of just how overrun it's become."

Bryan Smith, an adventure filmmaker who also doesn't geotag his locations, said the practice comes down to individual values.

"Obviously some people want to blast to the world whatever great thing they've just found," he told Finnerty.

That impulse would be a hard one to curb.

"I don't think you're going to stop people from sharing secret places," he said. "There's no geotagging police out there."

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Kristin Nelson and Kristian Jebsen.


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