by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, April 11, 2019
A wave of vigilante Instagram accounts are calling out irresponsible and sometimes illegal behaviour by social media influencers who put sensitive natural environments at risk in search of the perfect photo.
One such account has focussed its attention on the hordes that descended on the recent wildflower superbloom in California, complaining to brands who sponsor users who have strayed from the path or picked flowers for a photoshoot, both illegal in National Parks.
Public Land Hates You, which has 33,000 followers, messaged clothing brand Kappa, Campbells soup, and fragrance club Skylar, among others, after influencers promoting their products left the trails to take photos.
“What makes these so-called ‘influencers’ think that it’s OK to commandeer the beauty of our public lands to advertise stuff while concurrently damaging those very same lands,” the creator of Public Lands Hates You wrote in a caption, before encouraging other users on the photo-sharing app to contact companies over the behaviour of their models.
“I don’t know many companies that are OK with their products being advertised alongside damaging environmental behaviours, especially if those behaviours are illegal.
“So, take a few minutes to really make a difference. Do some research. Email and call these companies that have products being advertised. Let them know what you’ve seen. Let them know how you feel. And let them know you won’t be buying any of their products in the future.”
The account, run by an anonymous 31-year-old who grew up in New England, according to an interview with Jezebel, has criticised members of the public, too, for picking wildflowers, trampling poppies and disturbing wildlife.
One post was dedicated to nine different Instagram users who posted photos of themselves naked among the Californian flowers. Another is directed towards the pilots of the helicopter which landed at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.
“We never thought it would be explicitly necessary to state that it is illegal to land a helicopter in the middle of the fields and begin hiking off trail... but recent events have shown us that we were wrong,” the statement read.
Illegal hiking, feeding of wildlife and graffiti in national parks are other activities highlighted by the account.
“Individuals, influencers, and companies that have platforms to broadcast to huge numbers of people have a responsibility to think about the impact their contact has,” the person behind the account said.
But Public Lands Hates You is not alone. A similar account called Joshua Tree Hates You was set up to shame people who mistreated the national park in the Mojave Desert, calling out Instagram users who climbed on, camped under or hung lights (or a mirror ball) off its trees.
“Fragile, protected wildlife is not your Instagram prop,” the account says of one photo in which a woman leans against a tree.
Another account, youdidnotsleepthere has 135,000 followers and highlights photos of illegal - or more often, staged - camping.
A petition launched last year calling on Instagram to act against users who post images showing either illegal behaviour, such as camping in a prohibited area, or a neglect for sensitive environments, has now garnered 18,000 signatures.
Elisabeth Brentano, the travel blogger behind the petition, told Telegraph Travel : “We should never put likes, follows and money over the planet, and since we can’t seem to control ourselves, Instagram and Facebook have a responsibility to step in.”