A crowd on the Hidden Lake Trail photographs a passing animal. Photo: NPS
For many people, social media has become an important part of the way they interact with national parks. From trying to find the right trail to hike, to sharing selfies with family and friends, social media can be a valuable tool for the digitally connected park visitor. But increasingly, social media is associated with dangerous and destructive behavior in parks. In a time when headlines abound of hikers jumping fences, disturbing wildlife, or damaging natural resources in pursuit of the perfect selfie, one may begin to wonder—can social media be used for good in our parks?
One group of Glacier rangers is trying to change that narrative and use Instagram and Facebook to educate visitors about being safe and respectful in nature. Rangers like Gaby Eseverri are working with social media influencers to help them model responsible posting and Leave No Trace ethics for their followers.
“The goal is to inspire stewardship in the park,” Eseverri says, “we have had influencers ask us about social media ethics and that has inspired a really cool conversation. Like, maybe you don’t need to share the photo where you’re sitting next to a cliff that makes people want to copy dangerous behaviors.”
Sunrise over Lake McDonald makes for the perfect photo opportunity. Photo: NPS
As part of the project, Eseverri, and the rest of Glacier’s interpretive media team, have helped social media influencers, people who have influence and sway over large online followings, develop posts about Leave No Trace topics that they are passionate about. By working with social media influencers, rather than against them, they can leverage the large platforms these people have to share a positive message.
In creating content with a diverse group of influencers, each with their own personal brand, voice, and following, this conservation message can reach far more people than just those who pay attention to the park’s official pages.
“I’ve been really excited about making these collaborate posts first person,” Eseverri shared, “because we as a park don’t always get the opportunity to do that. When you can see someone’s first-person experience here and their perspective it’s really special and it helps people connect with that message.”
Social media is not going away, and future park managers will need to learn to live with it and to find ways to use its power for good. This project is a great example of how that can happen and how the values of stewardship and Leave No Trace can be passed on to the next generation.
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This project and many other critical projects would not be possible without your donations to the Glacier Conservancy. Learn more about how your support is making it possible to protect wilderness in Glacier National Park.