Most of us use social networks. And a large majority publishes where they are in almost every one of their Instagram photos. The Responsibility To Be An Influencer
But what happens when an influencer shows where he is? That his action can lead that place to a massification that it can’t stand, as is already the case with the Redwood forest in California or the Blue Hole in the state of New York.
The risk that natural landscapes will be seen by thousands of followers and become fashionable, is that this fashion can not always be managed by the place visited. So we end up wondering, can an influencer be a danger to the environment?
Influencer: who he is and how he can affect
Human beings tend to imitate others. “It is not that there is a predisposition to be influenced exactly, but that we humans seek to be part of social groups to feel identified with others, especially in adolescence, which is when we are creating who we are,” notes Iria Reguera, psychologist. “Right now the influencers are very accessible figures and it is easy for this identification to happen with them.
Iria also adds that “we humans learn behaviors partly through modeling: we find people with whom we feel identified because they resemble us or because they are how we want to become at some point and we copy some behaviors or tastes because they are a form of expression of who we are.
According to an expert in social media and online marketing, an influencer is “a person who, starting from an anonymous base or a certain social relevance, has enough credibility to influence thousands of people in social networks on a specific topic, becoming a prescriber of brands, places or activities. For better or for worse.”
So on the one hand we have someone with the “influencer” power and, on the other hand, thousands of followers of their movements who seek, in some way, to be like them. And at what point does this relationship pose a danger to the environment?
Let’s be honest, not all places in the world are prepared for a massification that is born as a consequence of the fashions generated by influencers. Iceland, for example.
After the visit of many Instagramers, it became a tourist destination to be taken into account but, behind the tourist boom that at first seems beneficial, there is much more.
According to Salome Hallfredsdottir, president of the Icelandic Environment Association, there is a serious danger. “The high mountain areas, are the only wild area that is intact throughout Europe and this tourist boom could destroy them,” he said for the BBC.
Geolocation, the greatest danger of virgin areas
What happens when your influence on others drags them into wilderness? Well, these are no longer virgin areas. You see your favorite influencer in Bali and you want to be there.
What began as a virgin zone, with hardly any tourism, with zero massification and no problems in its ecosystem, becomes an environmental problem with a very complicated solution. A paradise drowned in plastic by an excess of people in a natural place.
Before the social networks, the photos you saw in the travel catalogs, or were the ones your aunt showed you on her honeymoon. Since the birth of social networks (let’s remember that Instagram, is barely 9 years old), seeing protected landscapes or (previously) virgin natural areas is much simpler.
But it is worse since two years ago, when Instagram enabled the visible location of the photos. With it, anyone can upload a photo and tell us exactly where it is. Now we can know where the influencer is, be it a virgin, protected area or the most populated city on the planet. And the bad thing about this is that, if we know, it stops being a hidden place and becomes an open secret.
The neighbors of the Red Wall in Calpe to the limit
The news: the neighbors of the Red Wall in Calpe, do not stand any more.
This place, one of the most “instagramables” of Spain, is also a community of neighbors. Can you imagine that when you wake up and look at your window to see the wonderful landscape, you find the noise that is forming a group of people taking photos? Well, they can imagine it. And they suffer it.
Dozens of instagramers sneak into private property every day to get the best photo, without thinking about the neighbors’ dream or the intimacy that anyone is looking for their own home.
The beach of Leonardo DiCaprio, the last victim of social networks
Not only are influencers the travel instagramers. For years we have let ourselves be carried away by the world of cinema, for example, which created fashions like the one generated by Leonardo Dicaprio’s film The Beach.
For more than 20 years, this Thai beach, Maya Bay, has suffered harassment and demolition by all tourists who wanted to make a selfie in the paradisaical setting of a Hollywood film. And nature couldn’t take it anymore.
That’s why local authorities have closed this iconic beach to the public indefinitely, in an attempt to recover the coral reef that seems to have been destroyed after the visits of 6,000 tourists a day.
The responsibility to be an influencer
In some ways, influencing can be, in part, responsible for many environmental disasters that occur without us realizing it. In the end they don’t just create fashion.
In addition, their photos do not always show the true reality of the countries they visit because it is true that we are all more concerned with getting a good photo than with preserving those wonderful places that the world offers us.
This idyllic vision seems to provoke a yearning to travel in all human beings who follow their accounts and, even though when we travel there we see it with our own eyes, we still ignore these disasters because we continue with this vicious circle: we only want a photo as wonderful as they are.
But don’t worry, all is not lost, because if we remember what we pointed out at the beginning of the article, they influence for good and for bad.
Why not do it for good? Why not show the beaches of Maldives as they are, with a lot of plastic on their coasts? Or talk about countries that are already taking measures to prevent this type of “decadence” in their landscapes, such as Easter Island and its restrictions on tourists.
It is more than clear that saving the planet is everyone’s responsibility, whether we are instagramers, celebrities, whether we travel or not.
That’s why there are already platforms dedicated to raising awareness that human beings should take care of their passage through nature, such as Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNT), a platform that has created a Minimum Impact Guide, or Hikers for an 8th Leave No Trace Principle, a collective that has managed to get LNT to add a guide on the correct use of social networks in nature.
But it is also true that it will be very easy for those with the power to change the opinions of others to get down to work and give voice to environmental problems, instead of hiding them behind glamorous snapshots that are only looking for a “like”.