Social (Media) Responsibility: Dare greatly, play safely.

Having spent 8 years working in advertising, social responsibility is a concept I have became all-too familiar with. Social responsibility means that individuals and companies have a duty to act in the best interests of their environments and society as a whole. As conscientious marketers at 72andSunny (the agency I previously worked for), we were constantly trying to create work that not only increased sales and brand awareness, but also impacted culture in positive ways. I may not be in advertising anymore, but my practice of social responsibility hasn’t changed. If anything, I'm realizing it's more important than ever that I set an example of the behavior I hope to see in media and culture.

With the rise of adventurism on social media, it seems that everyone is competing to “one up” each other with the most extreme photo in the perpetual pursuit to get more likes. Influencers and followers alike are battling it out for who can stand closer to the edge, step further out of bounds and chart the most dangerous locales (guilty). The trend of “getting the shot” has transcended abilities because it’s not just the professional photographers and experienced outdoors people that are hopping on the adventure bandwagon, it’s literally everyone! Inexperienced adventure seekers are emulating top Instagram accounts, trying to capture shots that garner the most popularity. 

Photo by    Dylan H. Brown

I learned a valuable lesson recently while on a hike in Park City, Utah, with my boyfriend Dylan. We were visiting my good friends Chris and Jen and per usual, Dylan and I were looking for an afternoon adventure with a good excuse to take some pretty pics for the ol’ IG. Unfamiliar with Park City and it’s surroundings, we picked an ambiguous lake on a map and decided to check it out. Since we drove to Park City from Colorado, we had our inflatable stand up paddle boards in tow and hoped it would make for an extra special afternoon if we hauled the boards to the lake and paddled around in the snow melt. As we got closer to the trailhead, we discovered the lake was rather popular, so we parked away from crowds and bee-lined it straight up the lift line.

The hike itself was simple enough, an easy two-mile climb up the ski hill. About 3/4 of the way up, we hit a trail marker pointing us in the direction of three different lakes; we were headed towards Mary Lake. Half a mile later we reached the lake, a glittering greenish-blue pool of water surrounded by beautiful granite rock formations. It was Saturday afternoon and the lake was swarming with people escaping the Salt Lake City heat; swimming and cliff jumping. But right before our eyes was a sign that clearly read “NO SWIMMING.” It turns out Mary Lake is actually a reservoir and serves as Park City’s source of drinking water. This came as a major disappointment not just because this meant we weren’t going to be able to paddle the lake, but because so many people were blatantly dismissing the sign; swimming and cliff jumping off the rocks.

Dylan and I found a spot to chill, ate our lunch and weighed our risks of breaking the rules, too. “Technically, stand up paddle boarding isn’t swimming” we tried to rationalize, as we saw teenagers and adults alike frolicking in the water. “What’s going to happen, there’s no one here monitoring us.” But for some very important reason our collective conscience was sitting heavy on our shoulders and then it became very clear. Dylan and I are incredibly fortunate that we’ve created a lifestyle that allows us to get out, explore and share the world and with others through photography and social media. With that privilege though comes the social responsibility I feel obligated to uphold. What kind of influencers would we be if we’re influencing people to break the rules, ignore the signs and potentially risk their lives and the lives of others just to “get the shot.” As a lover of the great outdoors, I want to treat our playground with respect and protect it, but more importantly I want to keep the Grammers and folks who look up to adventure influencers safe. As stewards for the brands, hobbies and lands we admire, Dylan and I decided the risk was not worth the reward of getting the shot and thought there would be greater reward in sharing this valuable lesson.

Dear wilderness lovers and adventure enthusiasts, I urge you to continue exploring, dare greatly, take risks and share your findings with the world. But be safe, be smart, be respectful and consider the example you might be setting for those to follow in your footsteps. 

Photo by    Dylan H. Brown