Florida Man on the Run

Stop Geotagging. It’s Damaging Your Favorite Places.

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We all need to stop geotagging. Those secret spots you’ve found and want to share? Post the pictures but stop geotagging them. The popular locations where everyone already is? Throw those photos up on Instagram or Facebook, but stop geotagging them. “Why” you might be asking yourself, and honestly it is pretty simple. Your geotags are damaging your favorite places and I’ll explain why it’s time to stop.

Stop Geotagging to Save the Environment

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? Geotags are helping people find sensitive or hard to reach places out in the world. Anyone can create one, or just use one of the millions that have already been created on Instagram or Facebook. With the huge proliferation of these tags, its become increasingly easy to find these amazing spots. The easier someplace is to find or reach, the more people will eventually come. That is where all the problems really begin.

Horseshoe Bend is a prime example of why we need to stop geotagging
Horseshoe Bend is a marvel of mothernature…

Geotagging isn’t directly killing these places. It’s just all the people who arrive, walk on the ground, leave behind their trash, and are generally a detriment to these sensitive places. Nature can only handle so many humans before it becomes adversely affected. When you choose to put in a geotag, you’re adding to the rest of us pointing to a location and shouting “IT’S AWESOME HERE!”

When you choose to stop geotagging, then you’ve taken a step in the right direction. Movements like this are started with simple steps, but they are important ones. If we stop geotagging these sensitive places, over time they could very well become less likely to be visited. Make it harder to find and it’s harder to visit. When it’s harder to visit, nature can recover from those who are.

Some places, like Horseshoe Bend, are already too far gone or heavily trafficked. Yet, they serve another purpose for the cause. If we don’t stop geotagging, how many more places will end up like Horseshoe Bend? In reality, it looks a lot more like the picture below than the one at the begining of this article. Is that what we really want?

What happens to our favorite places when we don't stop geotagging them
…but it looks more like this in reality

Leave No Trace and No Tags

The ideas behind the stop geotagging movement extend from other ideas to protect our environment in its natural state. Leave No Trace is an organization which has served to highlight the damage we do when exploring. Their mission isn’t to stop us from enjoying mother nature. Instead, they seek to help us enjoy what she offers in a more responsible and respectful way. Leave No Trace works to provide education and other resources which help us all to protect the places we love, leave only footprints and take only memories.

Geotags are ultimately something that we are leaving behind, even if they aren’t physically there. Its a record of where we have been, but one that continually points those who come after us to places which might not be able to handle it. On top of all that, no matter how respectful you might be, those coming behind you might not have the same care. Not to mention these locations simply aren’t capable of handling the sheer increase in traffic they might experience, no matter how respectful or responsible the people visiting are.

We are the ones who need to step up and take responsibility. By extending the ideas behind leave no trace to our digital impact, we can help maintain our treasured sites for years to come. Putting a stop to geotagging of sensitive areas is just the first step in being more responsible with our impact on social media.

Share and Support the Movement

So what exactly can you do to help beyond kicking those geotags? Well, sharing this post would be an excellent start. When we increase the awareness around an issue, more people will buy into that idea. With one as important in our increasingly digital space as this, it is vital to get that information in front of eyes and into minds. Along with that you can use #stopgeotagging, on any posts where you might have geotagged before.

In addition, I encourage you to reach out to organizations like Leave No Trace. They can help bring awareness to further issues around our environmental impact. They are always looking for volunteers and if you can’t give your time there is always your money. Alternatively, look for a class in your local area so you can simply learn more about your impact. Supporting movements like Leave No Trace and #stopgeotagging are key to making them successful.

Finally, continue to look for more ways in which you can reduce your impact while traveling. I love the ideas shared by Erratic Engineeress where she highlights ways to reduce your waste, which also helps to save you some money! It’s approaches like these which can preserve these natural places for those who come after us.

Want to keep track of where I’m not geotagging, then follow me on Instagram or Facebook. Looking for more posts on how to be a better traveler, see my post on responsible heritage tourism. If you want more information, check out an excellent video by Vox on the subject here.

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8 Responses

  1. I’ve actually had thoughts about “why would I want to share my hidden gems with others?” I prefer no crowds. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I rarely use Facebook and Instagram to post photos so I don’t worry too much about the geotagging. However, when writing a blog post and creating a map of an itinerary that I’ve written, then I’m pinpointing a location to a restaurant, landmark, etc. It’s a catch-22 since I want to promote certain places yet it can also bring in too much of the crowds. I’ll be more cognizant of how I write about these places in the future. I also believe that there needs to be greater awareness of the pack in and pack out mentality and not leaving trash behind.

  3. I agree that all the geotagging has caused irreparable harm to many places across the globe. What is even sadder is that there are many tourism boards that do the same to draw in people. At some point, we have to stop harming our planet or there will be nothing left for the future. It’s the same with oceans and marine life. If we continue to build bigger cruise ships that dump their sewage and garbage into the oceans, along with industry and agriculture, then we are the only ones to blame when we can no longer enjoy a nice day at the beach.

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