Bragging on social media about pinning on a map the most spectacular viewpoint in a remote location : we have all done it once and some of us have even turned this action into a job. But it isn’t a blame we can put just on the heads of so called influencers if thanks to– or because of – these tags, some of the most rare and unspoiled places on earth have become tourist tracks.
Making the unspoiled, spoilt
The question is, if the beauty of a place is in the thrill of its discovery, the one you made, why would you want thousands of other people to see it and make it less of a discovery? If we all stopped geotagging, wouldn’t we allow others to enjoy the thrill of stumbling across the ‘no man has ever stepped here’ kind of scenarios?
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Actually, before the Internet. If nowadays the pristine waters framed by the majestic peaks at Delta Lake in Grand Teton National Park went from being visited by a couple of hikers a day to 150 thanks to geotagging, what was it like 20 + years ago when we did not have Google to look up the best routes to get to these spectacular and remote places, or even ‘something or somebody’ from the internet telling us there was such a place?
I can tell you how it was. I spent my summer and winter holidays in the Alps as a young girl – entire months of nature and outdoors activities. Back then everyone did the very same things so called travel bloggers do now, without bragging about it on social media and getting paid for it: my mum was no explorer but she did manage to make my cousin and I visit all the Alpine shelters of Gran Paradiso Natural reserve whilst spotting rare wildlife and taking amazing photos. I’m talking of 5 to 6 hour walks in the woods or rocks, and when in altitude, on the most desolated paths those mountains have to offer.
Harmed with a stick, a map and a compass.
The stick was to hit the rocks on the path and scare vipers off, the map and compass were the old fashioned version of 21st century geotagging. My mum did always get confused with orienteering, but we girls would always get our heads together and find North.
The thrill of such an experience back then was the experience itself, having been able to reach a place and to see something you only may see. No posting, just some good old slides we would then project for guests when my parents hosted a dinner.
The 21st century has brought us a generation of people who learnt things off the Internet, rather than stepping outside and trying first hand. And when they do try it, it is all already panned out and ready made for them: they can’t fuck it up. If they don’t find the ‘oasis’ they have seen tagged and have been following Gps directions for hours, then they should have not bothered stepping out of their mum and dad’s house altogether.
What is the fun in that? The only bit of thrill left for them is, and I can’t blame them, take a perfect snap and post it on Instagram. Posting is the new ‘discovery’ effect.
Take this guy:
Or the irony of this caption:
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As long as it’s on social media
Believe it or not what makes people happy now isn’t going to places, but making sure their friends and family think they are in a sunny paradise on the other side of the world. In fact, the number of people faking their holidays on social media is increasing each year: some dude over in Italy convinced everyone he was at the Maldives when in reality, after he wisely turned geotagging off on this occasion, he was posting photoshopped pictures of himself from home.
But at what price?
The geotagging thing isn’t just going to doom us to a world we have all seen before on social media, but it is actually damaging the beauty and the preservation of certain habitats. For example in some parts of South Africa it is possible to stumble across signs on fences during your safari; the 21st century has created something we might be able to control if you look at it from another perspective as they read ‘turn off geotagging function, be careful when sharing photos on social media as they can lead to poachers to our rhinos’ .
The tourism board of Jackson Hole, a body that you would imagine to encourage social media engagement, has instead encouraged visitors to use a generic location tag with the message ‘Tag Responsibly, keep Jackson Hole Wild’.
So, are you going to geotag next time?
You know what, the most efficient deterrent for geotag enthusiasts is: who gives a fuck of where the hell you are. Just make sure you stay there for good.