Last week, I spent my entire Saturday playing Pokémon and hanging out with tree huggers. Before you think I’m a tree whisperer stuck in my childhood Pokémon phase, let me explain myself. I went on a biology field trip to Harvard Forest in Petersham to collect data for our upcoming lab about carbon storage in a forested ecosystem.
It doesn’t hit you until you leave Boston that fall foliage is present. Yes, autumn exists and life outside of the city does as well. Despite what you think, there really is more to Massachusetts than Boston and Cape Cod (gasp).
The field trip entailed a one-and-a-half hour drive and I fully intended to immerse myself in Pokémon White 2. However, I couldn’t help but glance up from my game every once in a while and enjoy the blur of vibrant fall colors from the van window.
Once we got to the Harvard Forest, were all ready to stretch our legs and see what central Massachusetts had to offer. After trekking to the entrance, I was marveled by the innumerable research projects that took place in the various forest stands. Although we weren’t at the forest to begin a long-term ecological research project, it actually felt as if we had a noteworthy task.
“What is this?”
One of the first trees that we encountered had us stumped (pun). It was a droopy looking individual with barren branches, curling downward in defeat with a thick bark that looked as if it had been jaggedly pieced together by a 3-year-old with Elmer’s glue.
“My senses are telling me that it’s obviously a Norway Spruce.”
When we were stuck, our go-to tree species was the Norway Spruce or the Red Oak because we suddenly felt like tree experts and nothing was going to tell us otherwise.
After two hours, everything began to look the same. This was a perfect Instagrammoment. After I captured a tiny snapshot of the forest, I quickly scrolled though the filters, scrutinizing the quality of the image with each filter. I chose Mayfair for its uncanny ability to pull out every good feature in the photo with its brightening aspect and subtle pink tone.
After my upload was finalized, I began to think. Of course, there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of the forest, but it’s the part where we filter the image and drastically alter its appearance that is troubling to me.
It’s puzzling that people think we must resort to our primitive selves once we enter the captivating beauty of the natural world. So why did it feel so counterintuitive when I whipped out my phone to capture the beauty of the forest with my Mayfair filter on Instagram? Surely, I just wanted people to share the beauty of my surroundings and editing the image doesn’t hurt anyone, right?
I only got two likes on filtered forest picture. I don’t know about you, but the quality of that picture was spot-on. My friend’s picture of a macaroon got more likes than my picturesque forest landscape. Shame on Instagram.
There’s really only one solution to my inquiry. Let’s just put our Thoreau filter on, and by that, I mean that we should go filter-less. The environment is beautiful without our phony, enhanced pixels that we flaunt among our followers. Nature doesn’t have spelling errors, so why do we feel the need to proofread it?
In our society, social media is the only way that some people can interact with nature. With bustling city lives, it’s become a chore for people to venture out to the state-owned and national forests. Living in Boston, skyscrapers have become our makeshift forest and city sirens have been our desperate attempt at wildlife, but it just isn’t the same. When I walk outside, sirens aren’t birds beckoning my grand entrance into their humble abode. In fact, there isn’t any over-friendly wildlife to be seen. But then again, I’m not Snow White.
The last thing I wanted to do on a Saturday was to wake up early and devote my entire day to a field trip, but I must admit that I’m glad I went. Actually getting away from the city was an incredibly refreshing experience. It’s amazing the improvement that a change in scenery can provide.
There is no well-defined line to help us to determine how much technology we are allowed to incorporate into the environment and there are no laws that state that you can’t use as many filters as you want on your Instagrammed snapshots of the environment. Times like these, it’s more important to drink in the experiences that are before your eyes instead of editing them for future reference, taking in what the environment has to offer and enjoying the scenery with #nofilter.
Jennifer Ruth is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying environmental analysis and policy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.