Social Media isn’t ruining hiking

Last week the CBC posted an online story that posed the question: is social media ruining hiking in B.C.?

Its conclusion? Probably.

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The problem is two-fold, it said. First, people with Instagram accounts are motivated to visit beautiful spots in order to post photos and rack up their likes. Second, when those posters geotag the photos, they’re essentially advertising that spot to their followers. The main example is Joffre Lakes, which reached new heights in popularity this summer.

The theory is partly correct, but arguably flawed. It’s hard to believe that your average couch potato from Vancouver would be motivated to drive three-plus hours and struggle through a moderate uphill hike solely to snap a picture that will make their friends and followers jealous.

It gets a little trickier with geotagging. When someone with a public profile geotags their Instagram picture it becomes available to anyone who searches the name of the place that’s tagged. An unending stream of stunning alpine wildflowers could certainly entice people to visit that spot — but they have to know what they’re looking for in the first place. In that way, geotagging isn’t really giving away hidden gems, but instead offering a peak to those considering visiting it. It’s akin to the star rating in the locally famous (i.e. sold out at Armchair Books at times) Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia by Matt Gunn.

The problem is the myriad ways people — and organizations — are sharing photos on various platforms, collectively. One culprit is Destination B.C., which has a beautifully curated Instagram feed — and 267,000 followers. With a wide reach and a social-media savvy team, the organization posts stunning images of every corner of the province daily. In other words, if that feed doesn’t entice you to visit a particular place, nothing will.  

But even then, people who aren’t inclined to hike up mountains are unlikely to be inspired to take up the activity from a photo. And if they are — well, who are we to discourage them?

The truth is, no amount of geotagging or Facebook photos are going to entice the masses to visit your hard-to-reach secret spot. A particularly captivating photo might prompt a few of your friends to visit it, but its power probably ends there.

It’s the easy-to-access places — included in listicles of the best things to do in the corridor — that are being overrun by tourists. As long as you keep adventuring further afoot — and on Whistler’s non-traditional workweek schedule — your favourite places are probably safe.

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