Is Instagram ruining Big Sur? This account shames visitors’ bad behavior

Drive up Highway 1 in Big Sur and you’ll see tons of people with their phones out, trying to get that perfect shot for Instagram.

One account is calling out folks who go to questionable lengths for their photos.

The Instagram account @bigsureducatesyou takes screenshots of posts from other Instagram accounts and calls users out for violations like crossing past an “Area Closed” sign or standing in the middle of the highway. (The account was originally called @bigsurhatesyou, but the name was changed “to be more professional and friendly,” according to a Monday afternoon post on the account.)

One of the screenshots posted on the @bigsureducatesyou account shows a woman standing under McWay Falls. “Climbing down to the beach and calling it ‘taking one for the team’ is not only stupid, it’s illegal,” the caption reads.

The coastal waterfall, along with other beaches in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, is off limits to the public and trespassing can lead to citation and arrest, according to California State Parks.

“The areas are extremely hazardous,” State Parks said. “Failure to respect the boundaries has resulted in complex rescue operations and tragic loss of lives.”

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Matthew Khalar, a supervising ranger for California State Parks in Big Sur, said Instagram and other social media have caused a change in how tourists interact with the area.

“If you go to the Bixby Bridge on weekends, sometimes we have to have CHP officers stationed there all day long because people will just stop in the middle of the road for that photo,” Khalar said. “It wasn’t like that two years ago.”

Geotagging locations on Instagram means that more visitors are flocking to formerly hidden gems — and an increase in visitors means that there are more instances of bad behavior, Khalar said.

Khalar said rangers find a lot of people trespassing in areas that are closed to the public “because they want that photo.”

“We’ve always had that problem (of people trespassing) but now people are specifically referencing that they saw it on Instagram so they want to do it themselves,” Khalar said, noting that rangers give those people citations, which come with a “sizable fine.”

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“It comes down to personal safety. We don’t want to see our visitors seriously injured or killed,” Khalar said. “People seem to have this checklist of things they need to get when they come here, and Instagram puts the idea in their head in a lot of ways.”

The creator of the @bigsureducatesyou account said in an email that the account started after seeing what Instagram accounts like @joshuatreehatesyou were doing in terms of calling people out for bad behavior. (The @joshuatreehatesyou account, which is no longer on Instagram, took screenshots of people misbehaving in Joshua Tree National Park.)

“I’m trying to show people the bad behavior that’s going on here just for some photo opportunities,” the person behind @bigsureducatesyou said. “There’s talk about being overrun by tourists in Big Sur, but I think half of the problem is the bad behavior.”

The account’s creator also noted that most of the reaction to the account has been positive, and some people who’ve been called out for their behavior have apologized for their actions.

The person behind the account would not reveal their identity but said they are a Big Sur local.

The account’s description urges people to take the “Big Sur pledge,” a promise to be respectful of the area.

“Together we can keep this stretch of paradise looking awesome for all visitors,” the account’s description reads. “Please be mindful.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a response from the creator of the @bigsureducatesyou Instagram account.

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