American gods, social media, and the outdoors
That is the eternal folly of man. To be chasing after the sweet flesh, without realizing that it is simply a pretty cover for the bones.
Neil Gaiman, American Gods
I confess I’ve binge-watchedthe brilliant American Gods (Amazon Prime) in a couple of nights and I’ve loved every minute of it. The eight-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel tells the story of a modern world on the verge of a clash between deities old and new. New gods have arisen, portraying the American obsessions with media, celebrity and technology, to name a few. And it has left me wondering about how the veneration of these new gods is impacting the outdoors, among other things.
Is it? Is social media ruining the outdoors? Well, I think it’s only ruining the outdoors if we let it. Social media isn’t bad itself, it just depends on how we use it. Quoting Paracelsius, the dose makes the poison, and I wholeheartedly believe it. It’s true that social media is, in fact, harming the outdoors, but is also truethat there are ways we can use it to help to some extent.
How is social media harming the outdoors?
Today, travellers and outdoor enthusiasts can discover new places they want to go in an instant through social media. The beautiful pictures serve as inspiration and reminders to explore the great outdoors and experience as much of it as possible. We can follow others we feel are in our “tribe” and see where they are going and what they are doing.
With geotagging, we can go to the exact locations we see posted on social media and this is what has caused some issues. Say a popular Instagramer posts a picture of their campsite with an awe-inspiring backdrop, but where they set up camp is actually an illegal campsite. They are encouraging and giving the “okay” to their followers to set up camp somewhere that isn’t allowed. They are impacting the environment a lot more than they are even aware. Furthermore, locations around the world that have never experienced many visitors and cannot handle high traffic are now hosting ten times the visitors. Their trails and unspoiled flora and fauna are being negatively affected from this change in traffic. If users encourage things that harm the environment then we are actually in trouble.
How is social media able to help the outdoors?
Well, good news! There are ways to help the outdoors through social media too. We can promote outdoor policies, volunteer opportunities, tips to positively impact the environment, and so much more. Weuse social media for good, and here are some tips on how you can help:
- Pick up trash wherever you go and post a picture of everything you picked up. Encourage people to do the same
- Stop geotagging exact locations and encouragepeople to discover their own special campsite, hiking trail, lookout point, etc
- Caption your photos wisely and maybe throw in some educational tidbits. Educate people about Leave No Trace policies and how to live by it. Give them fun facts about the places you visit. The possibilities are endless
- Let people know that if they too use their social media for good, we can make a huge difference in helping the environment
We shouldn’t just do things for “the gram”. It’s just common sense, and although it’s not so common, we can learn to be mindful of our actions and their impact. We do have the power to make either a negative or positive effect on the world. So the ultimate question I have for you is, are you going to feed the new gods?