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The Dark Side

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Accidentally stumbling across an insta hotspot is one thing; deliberately seeking out 'instagrammable places' is another - while it is not my thing I can understand why people do it. Almost 100 years ago when I did my OE in Europe there were the equivalent of instagram captures in experiences - I cringe now when I think of dressing in national costume in some countries, beerfests in others. I have also taken instagram shots when travelling - lining up with fellow photographers as the sun fell out of the sky, trying for the ultimate shot of U Bein Bridge. It was fun. But, I digress. I have a concern about the balance between sharing images to make the world a better place and those images ultimately causing damage.

First up, insta is found to have the most negative impact on young people's mental health - with one report staying that it 'negatively impacts body image and sleep, increases bullying and FOMO (fear of missing out)..." But, it's not just human health that it hurts.

It also has quite a negative impact on some of our most beautiful natural destinations. A 2018 report in the NY Times found that geotagging was ruining wild places in the US (that seems like a rather obvious conclusion). A US based group "Leave no Trace" have 5 suggestions for social posting;

  • Think before you geotag (and also be aware of your device's in-built metadata).

  • Be mindful of what your images portray - thinking about what your images portray (including safety and cultural appropriateness)

  • Encourage and inspire people to leave no trace - act ethically and encourage others to do the same

  • Give back to places you love

  • Shaming is not the answer - don't shame people for how they post but instead discuss what stewardship of the outdoors means.

Endangered tūturiwhatu / NZ Dotterel

Photography plays a vital role in documenting natural and social history and in raising awareness of the impact of humans. The balance of sharing the story and the importance of a photograph has to be weighed alongside the impact of sharing the actual location.


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