Social Media: A Threat to Our Nation’s Parks?

If I could swim, I expect it would always be upstream. Consider this. I enjoy being outside and taking advantage of the many parks and other recreational areas in Northeast Ohio and elsewhere. And at the same time, I understand the attraction of social media. It is a venue for news and other communication. It provides unlimited opportunities for self-promotion.  It’s an enjoyable time-suck, making the workday go faster. And it allows us to establish and maintain relationships without much, if any, heavy lifting.

Don’t have the time or interest to buy and send a birthday, wedding or get-well-quick card. No problem. Click on “like.” Done.

I wonder, though, if the fascination with and use of social media is making us more isolated and insular — and we’re trading experiences in the real world for the digital.

Here’s what got me stewing over this. It’s an article in USA Today, “National parks, wilderness areas hunt for young visitors“:

The average visitor to some of the nation’s parks and wilderness areas is getting grayer, prompting a new emphasis on getting young people to unplug and head outdoors.

Without “a generation of kids who have had good experiences with national parks, then in a very short amount of time, we may not have enough people who care about national parks to keep them going,” says John Hayes of the Dunes Learning Center at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

For the National Park Service, developing life-long connections between the public and parks — especially for young people — is a priority from now until its 2016 centennial.

That could be a challenge: A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that people ages 8 to 18 spent an average of 7½ hours a day on digital media. Last month, a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that three times as many Millennials — born in the 1980s and ’90s — as Baby Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment.

A “big concern” of the National Park Service “is maintaining 21st-century relevance,” says James Gramann, a Texas A&M professor writing a book on people-park links. Visitors ages 16-24 are most under-represented, he says.

Oh well.

Wonder if Yellowstone National Park has Wi-Fi?



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