Adventure Journal doesn’t have a big Instagram presence, and we generally don’t tag locations, for the fairly obvious reason that some of the best places on earth are already overrun and overcrowded with nature lovers. We also think it’s better to inspire than to take people by the hand and lead them to a spot. The joy of discovery is a key element of adventure.
In 2016, in Adventure Journal 02, I wrote a piece called “Leave No (Digital) Trace? Oversharing Is Damaging Our Wild Public Lands—It’s Time to Rethink How and What We Post.” In that story, I said:
Today, most outdoor enthusiasts know and live by Leave No Trace guidelines, and thanks in part to LNT it’s still possible to disappear into wild lands and find solitude. The successes of both clean climbing and LNT are evidence that education can change behavior, that we will act individually to collectively protect experiences and places we know to be special and fragile. And with that in mind, I am arguing that it’s time to add two more guidelines to our outdoor code, either informally or, even better, as codified additions to the Leave No Trace framework:
• Only identify locations posted to social media in general terms. Don’t be too specific, and keep secret spots secret.
• Don’t post or share GPS coordinates of backcountry destinations. Ask those who do to remove them.
Adventure Journal’s has not been the only voice calling for less digital exploitation of public spaces, and thank goodness, because Leave No Trace, whether affected by outside sentiment or driven by internal recognition of the need for a new code, has just announced “new social media guidance.”
When posting to social media, consider the following:
Tag thoughtfully – avoid tagging (or geotagging) specific locations. Instead, tag a general location such as a state or region, if any at all. While tagging can seem innocent, it can also lead to significant impacts to particular places.
Be mindful of what your images portray – give some thought to what your images may encourage others to do. Images that demonstrate good Leave No Trace practices and stewardship are always in style.
Give back to places you love – invest your own sweat equity into the outdoor spaces and places you care about. Learn about volunteer stewardship opportunities and get involved in the protection of our shared lands.
Encourage and inspire Leave No Trace in social media posts – given the millions of social media users in the world, think of the incredible potential that social media has to educate outdoor enthusiasts – first timers to seasoned adventurers – about enjoying our wild lands responsibly.
Fantastic! This is excellent news, to see a major outdoor group urging ethical behavior in the digital realm. I’m also excited to see LNT go further than I recommended. It’s important that we question the ethos of our time, that we try to anticipate unintended consequence, and that we—image—act with restraint. Kudos to Leave Not Trace for taking these steps.
“Leave No Trace isn’t black or white, right or wrong,” the group writes. “It’s a framework for making good decisions about enjoying the outdoors responsibly, regardless of how one chooses to do so. If outdoor enthusiasts stop and think about the potential impacts and associated consequences of a particular action, it can go a long way towards ensuring protection of our shared outdoor spaces. To that end, we encourage outdoor enthusiasts to stop and think about their actions and the potential consequences of posting pictures, GPS data, detailed maps, etc. to social media. Furthermore, we urge people to think about both the protection and sustainability of the resource and the visitors who come after them.
Photo by Sean DuBois on Unsplash