New Yorkers living in the five boroughs have been experiencing the effects of social media on their favorite local hangouts for about a decade now. Gentrification and the increase of tourism to many of the city’s neighborhoods is in no small part due to the increase in the attention social media brings to what were once a hometown’s best kept secrets. Like the old-fashioned ice cream parlor one always visited with their family that all of a sudden has a line out the door every night, there is always a sadness that comes with seeing things change that way.
Increased tourism has its perks by bringing in more business, but there are still very clear negative effects.
Those effects can best be seen when the area in question is a natural landscape. For example, there is the much beloved swimming hotspot Blue Hole, located near Woodstock, New York. It used to be a place passed on by word of mouth, which kept the number of visitors low.
However, social media users on platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TripAdvisor, have been revealing their locations to the masses. Photos show off its crystal blue waters, and sites advertise it as a “must-do” summer attraction.
Blue Hole has experienced an influx of visitors due to its newfound popularity. According to The New York Times, it has recently hit around 1,000 people a day and has been dubbed “one of the best swimming holes in the nation.”
But the Blue Hole cannot physically handle the weight and consequences of that title.
The Associated Press reported that the state has had to enact emergency regulations because of how the increased visitation affected what Commissioner Basil Seggos of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation called a “postage stamp-
The amount of garbage and human waste generated by the vacationers is causing concern from both locals and conservationists around the country. The group Leave No Trace has been working to teach and help visitors at Blue Hole be more conscientious about their actions.
This problem was caused by social media bringing the public’s attention to this once peaceful destination, but to say that social media is to blame for its pollution is an inaccurate statement. It is the people who use it who need to learn how to better utilize it in order to protect the natural beauty of the land.
One can post a picture of themselves with their friends at Blue Hole, but it is necessary to also include a hashtag or some kind of public service announcement about keeping it clean. They need to promote not only that a certain site is a trendy place to go to, but also that it requires an active effort to preserve and respect. Social media is a powerful tool and its affects depend on who wields it.
Conservationists can even use it to help spread their messages about Blue Hole and provide easy tips to those who want to lessen their carbon footprint on the watering hole in the same way travel agencies use their posts to give travel tips to technologically savvy travelers.
There is only so much that the government and environmentalists can do to regulate visitors and their behavior. Even responsible usage of social media cannot always undo damages done to the land.
Those things alone are not enough to save Blue Hole and places like it in the long-term. For that to happen, change has to start with the visitors themselves. They are the ones who need to start caring about our environment.
People should consider more than themselves when enjoying a day in the water. It is everyone’s job to teach their families to respect and care for it as well. Instilling in them a love and respect for nature will help the message last lifetimes, instead of just for a moment.
Nature must be enjoyed responsibly.