Share your outdoor experiences openly – but carefully

Once upon a time, outdoor enthusiasts and photographers commonly shared information about locations of particular interest. We shared unique places, sacred places, sensitive places. We shared with others we knew and trusted. We even encouraged them to visit certain spots. Sometimes the locations were shared through club meetings or printed newsletters. A few authors even wrote books outlining these special, sacred and sensitive areas – although usually in a very cautious and often a bit vague manner. In general, the information wasn’t widely circulated. Most often, we were sharing with like-minded,  pro-conservation and protection individuals. Finding information about these rare and unique places on our own wasn’t easy. It took persistence, proving oneself and motives, and burning a whole lot of boot leather.

Finding the rare and sensitive places, flora and fauna, used to be a matter of putting forth the effort to learn the natural patterns of the land, spending time searching and roaming the wilderness. We learned by committing ourselves to hard work, reading, studying, and, frankly, sometimes just sheer luck and gut feeling. It truly made us appreciate our hard-earned successes.

Yet here we are today, and the internet and social media have changed everything. Now it’s a quick internet search and pin drop request away. We have learned (in many cases the hard way) not to reveal locations of hunting honey holes, fabulous fishing spots, and, more importantly, the rare, unique, and sacred places. Increasingly we are learning that what we say online lives well beyond our original reason for posting. Once it’s out there – it’s out there, it can’t be reeled back in. Despite best efforts to remove, edit, walk back or delete – somebody somewhere has a screenshot.

Now we sit back and watch with horror as internet reports and images flourish. A single thoughtless post results in all of a sudden hundreds of people trekking off to visit and photograph a new spot. Especially those labeled as “best,” “breathtaking,” “special,” or “perfect” by posters looking for likes, followers, shares, and a good ego massage. The downside? These increased numbers of visitors start showing up en masse,  with little understanding of these areas’ true rarity and specialness that the resource suffers. Often mightily. These folks seem to miss this subtle point. By showing up in droves to see that one unique plant, that one special spot, that one sensitive and little-known area, they have just ruined the very specialness they are seeking. Additionally, the visitors spurred on by social media sharing often seem unable to filter through what just might be a bunch of hyperbole to garner likes, shares, and followers.

In the end, sharing your photograph and your experience is not about proving that you are so elevated and talented that you found a rare and unique place. It is about telling of your overall experience, immersing yourself in the rarity and specialness of things. Take a breath to ask yourself what is essential about the photograph you are about to share. Why do you need to share this particular image? Recognition isn’t found from naming places, doling out GPS coordinates to those your feel “worthy.” It comes from the feelings you share in telling your story and the visual attraction of your image, your experience.

Please share your perspective through your photos and carefully chosen words, and let those things speak for themselves. Be cautious with sharing too much, offering up the locations, and do your part to protect the rare, the sacred, and the sensitive spaces we all treasure.

Categories: — — Illinois – Gretchen Steele

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