There’s one thing we all need to learn about our modern, social-media-fueled oversharing tendencies: It can seriously bite us in the rear. And sometimes we deserve it. Case in point: the Instagram account “Public Lands Hate You.”
The founder of the account, a 31-year-old engineer who calls himself “Steve,” was inspired by the poor behavior he often observed on hikes, including people wandering off designated trails, using drones illegally, trampling flowers, etc. to call out offenders and shame them out of their bad habits via Instagram.
Steve often reposts photos of influencers exhibiting destructive or careless behavior on public lands. Although Steve condemns online harassment, with a following of over 64,000, his posts regularly cause thousands to flock to the offender’s Instagram and leave comments ranging from warnings to abusive commentaries.
Sometimes shaming proves successful. It’s resulted in sponsors canceling partnerships with influencers who behave irresponsibly and brands paying thousands of dollars in restitution to an environmental organization after being called out on their behavior.
Steve is even taking things one step further by launching a blacklist of influencers who continually display “environmentally destructive behavior” for their brand sponsorships. The Bad Influencer List will be published on his official Public Lands Hate You website and will serve to discourage brands from partnering with those influencers.
“It’s not going to say that these are terrible people,” Steve told Outside, “but it is going to lay out the facts so that companies can look at it before deciding if it’s somebody that they really want to work with.”
Not everyone believes shaming is the best solution. Katie Boué, an online consultant who works with environmental advocacy groups, said to Outside, “Providing a space for people to yell and scream and say extremely derogatory and inappropriate things to strangers on the internet is not going to help out public lands in any way.”
Her concern is largely about harassment and disproportionate ridicule for relatively minor, innocent mistakes. Steve is attempting to address such concerns by balancing influencer critique with educational environmental posts, such as cautioning against common practices like rock stacking and geotagging.
The solution to irresponsible environmental behavior isn’t simple. The question is: Is shaming influencers online actually productive, or is it just plain bullying?