13 December 2018

The menace of geotagging

I enjoy the outdoors.
I have been enjoying the outdoors before it became trendy, actually when it was still uncool.
At school I didn't want to reveal that I enjoyed walking in the forest, or hike up mountains; it just wasn't the done thing.

Sunset at granite belt

With the advent of social media, specifically YouTube, I started to see a shift in the perception of the outdoors: it no longer was just a place for misfits and simpletons. Add a bit of adrenaline sport and suddenly every kid wanted to be a hero outdoors with his GoPro.

But GoPro video footage requires an attention span from the viewer slightly longer than the one of a kitten. Still images are viewed much faster and easily, especially on mobile devices with possibly sketchy reception.
Welcome Instagram: a portal of vicarious life for the masses.

I don't think one needs much talent to create compelling images for Instagram: just about all of them are viewed on a tiny screen. Any camera can produce the perfect photograph and the mobile phone, constantly in the hands of any "adjusted" young person, is the ultimate enabler of projecting a life that we want others to see. We trim the mundane, the ugly and the boring; we only want the best to shine. My life has to look fabulous; only that way I will have a social status among my peers.

And what better way to show how successful I am than constantly showing my life is better than theirs?
Bling and toys only can influence so much but nothing is more desirable than visiting exotic locations, in my book.
It was 1990 when a tiny image on a small shoe brochure stunned me: Arches National Park (Utah).
6 months later I bought a ticket and I was on my way to discover the untamed West. Well, it was by then tamed but I saw just one other car in the whole park; I hiked the few established trails and then took off track and camped at (now) iconic locations.

This is the very same location today, where years ago I pitched my tent for the night, all alone.

Delicate Arch Sunset

What happened?
One word: geotagging

In the me-too world where the masses want to emulate their (Instagram) heroes the simple act of geotagging a posted image can literally destroy a once unique and pristine place.
And while I do respect a photographer for his/her art I loose all respect for selfie-stick toting crowds that all all costs must include themselves in the scenery. And you guess it: to prove that their life is also worthy of social status.
The problem is that the masses are large, and just like a plague of locust of biblical proportions, have been known to trample an destroy natural beauty.

That brings me to last weekend.
I visited a friend of mine that lives a few hours away from the city. I like the countryside there, the rolling hills and mountains with rainforest tops. The area is not well known and he treated me to an off road adventure in his 4WD to a secluded location.

New Austria

The scenery stunned me as much as the absence of any crowds. There was no sign of tramping, rubbish or even much traffic. I loved the scenery.
At the end of the day I was truly content: I wanted to share that wonderful place with other close friends.
And then it dawn on me: is it safe to do so?
I am now in two minds: it would be selfish to keep it all to myself but at the same time I fear that a careless act from my friends of simply posting a nice photograph on some (anti)social media, describing the location, could lead to trampling Insta-crowds.
If only I could blind-fold them and disable their phones prior leading them there :-)

broccoli valley

Off the beaten track, literally


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