Is Instagram ruining US National Parks?


posted Friday, December 18, 2015 at 5:04 PM EDT


New York Magazine recently wrote an article about 'Instagram hikers' and social media's relationship with National Parks.

Instagram and other social media have done an excellent job of increasing awareness of America's National Parks, but this additional attention also has negatives. Take for example a story in New York Magazine's article about an individual getting dangerously close to a feeding grizzly bear just to take a photo. This stunt led to the National Park Service (NPS) having to assign rangers to follow the bear in the area to ensure that nobody else got close to it.

While instances like that are rare, there are other issues that have resulted from increased National Park exposure on social media. Last year, an "artist" defaced rocks in several national parks and shared her exploits on Instagram. Another "artist" did a similar thing only a few months later.

Following the flood of 'Instagram hikers,' there have been increases in trash and residual damage to the environment in parks throughout the country. Facing off against this group of mostly young social media users that are flocking to parks is the 'Original Parks People,' who consider parks to be more than just pretty places, but also sacred and private places that deserve respect. The older guard of hikers and parks visitors are becoming increasingly frustrated with people coming in, grabbing pictures for social media, and then leaving (in some cases while leaving behind trash and other damage).

As a frequent visitor to Acadia National Park, I've seen a lot of dangerous and damaging activities over the years. Some of these are innocent mistakes, but others are instances of malicious disregard by irresponsible visitors. I would say that with the increase in social media usage, there has been an increase in destructive visitors. With that said, I believe that there is a balance to be struck between encouraging more people to visit our National Parks and protecting the parks. Ultimately, no individual can claim ownership over these parks and you have to take the good with the bad in the hopes that bringing more young people out into nature will eventually lead to more respect and better protection of our natural resources. Consider the image below from Acadia National Park, I believe that everyone deserves the right to experience places like this.


A photo posted by Acadia National Park (@acadianps) on

Rather than be focused on the negative aspects of the National Parks' increased popularity, perhaps a more welcoming and educational approach is the best way to reduce the stress that 'Instagram hikers' can place on natural resources. After all, many of them are not just there for the 'likes' and 'favorites' but truly respect and care for the environment. By showing more people how many beautiful natural resources there are out there, I think that the good will far outweigh the bad.

(Seen via Fstoppers