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How Instagram Ruined the Great Outdoors

Apr 22, 2019

Social media influencers have helped turn public lands into tourist-infested swamps. And one cantankerous man is fighting back.

By CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM April 18, 2019
There was once a swimming hole in a stream-fed gorge on the public lands of the Catskill Mountains that was gloriously free of Homo sapiens. You could go there in the height of summer and see no one and have the deep blue pools to yourself. Then came Instagram. I won’t tell you the name of the gorge or provide a link to the pictures, as that would only worsen the invasion of drunken, littering, caterwauling people in what was once a redoubt of solitude and quiet.
Instagram users who love the outdoors have a habit of ruining the wild places they touch—a perverse irony that seems lost on them. It is now axiomatic that a locale of stunning natural beauty will quickly degrade into a morass of crowding once it is posted on the platform as a pristine image. The herd instinct kicks in, and other users who also want to be photographed in those same lovely landscapes converge with their own cameras and Instagram accounts and followers—ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
It is therefore with great delight that I’ve been following the work of the saboteur who runs Public Lands Hate You, an Instagram account dedicated to exposing this noxious dynamic and castigating the app’s proliferating culture of “influencers.” The anonymous 31-year-old Idaho man behind the account—who doesn’t want his name published for fear that the Instagrammers he sabotages will come after him personally—warns on his page: “If you think this world and our public lands are here for you to promote yourself; your advertisers; your promoters; your photographer; anything with ‘You’ in it—you’re wrong. Very, very wrong.”