What Does "Tag Responsibly" Mean And Why Is It Important?
If you follow as many outdoor and hiking Instagram accounts as I do, you have probably come across posts where the location is "Tag Responsibly" instead of the trail, park, or town that they are visiting. As somebody who is alway taking screenshots of things I want to do and places I want to see in the future, I found this so frustrating!! Why not share such beautiful places with your followers - give us the details!
But I started to see this geotag in almost every hiking or camping post I saw, so I began to wonder - "What does this mean? Why not share the actual location so that others can experience the same beauty? What am I missing?"
It wasn't until my road trip to Colorado this summer that I started to dig deeper into this and really understand:
The reason why I wanted them to post the real location was the entire problem - When you post the location of your hiking or camping spot for hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people to see, you're inviting them to frequent that area too - causing countless problems for the animals, plants, and ecosystem in that spot.
The goal of this "Tag Responsibly" campaign is to preserve those natural resources and habitats from over-touristing, overcrowding and destruction - while supporting conservation efforts (Brand Channel, 2018). Instagram can be a truly amazing resource, but not when it means sacrificing the natural beauty and exposing the area to visitors who disrupt the wildlife, leave trash behind, and overcrowd previously remote places. Concerns have also been raised about the ability of a geotagged photo to lead poachers to areas where they know they can find their prized kill.
And if preserving nature isn't enough to get you on board with this campaign, it also has a lot of human safety measures behind it as well. What you don't see on those beautiful summit pictures on Instagram is the trail that the hikers took to get to that point: steep cliffs, unimaginable elevation gains, and rocky terrain for 10+ miles. To an inexperienced hiker, this means exhaustion, twisted ankles, and at its worst, endangering your life and calling for help. I'm all for pushing yourself, but not when it means risking your life just for a photo.
And even worse is getting too close to a bison, bear, moose, or even a rattlesnake (yep, it's happened!) to get that perfect shot, only to have the animal charge at you out of fear for its life. A study published by One Health found that 48% of people that photographed bison sustained injuries from doing so and 24% of people knew they were too close. Who know selfies could kill?
"But I don't even have that many followers, so I doubt tagging the location on my photo would even have an impact."
Your posts are more powerful than you think! While you may not have thousands of eyes on your account, one person may share it with their friend, who shares it with their co-worker, who shares it on their Instagram story, and so on.
It's not a matter of the short term impact - it's the long term impact we're talking about here. And these days, you never really know what posts are going to take off and go viral.
"So how am I supposed to find these beautiful spots for my next trip if I can't see other's locations?"
1) Try to find it on your own! This is much harder than being able to look up the address of the trail head, but think of how much more you'll see. While you look for that one spot that you thought was as beautiful as it gets, you may come across other views that far surpass it. Think if it like a treasure hunt - difficult and not without its challenges, but totally worth it.
2) Make friends on Instagram (this is my preferred method). One of the things I never realized would happen when I joined the Instagram dog community is how many friends I would make and then end up meeting in real life! Talk to other dog parents who you share interests with and meet up to go on a hike with them - they might just show you their favorite secret spots :)
"Is this campaign actually making a difference?"
That's the best part - it is! Since the first campaign "Tag Responsibly, Keep Jackson Hole Wild" began in 2018, more and more have been created for Colorado, Washington, Idaho, California, Hawaii, and many more. #tagresponsibly has been tagged thousands of times and even a lot of the most well known hiking accounts have opted to either omit the geotag or add a nondescript location.