While on one of O‘ahu’s most dangerous hikes, Hawai‘i Pacific University graduate Kaisha Chu fell a fatal 200 feet from Pu‘u Manamana, in December 2016. Friends and family remember the 22-year-old soccer player as athletic, friendly and outgoing.
Hiking is a common, beautiful and exciting way to pass time; but it can also be deadly. According to Celeste Yee from the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program, “there has been a steady, annual increase in hiking-related rescues for the past 10 years.”
Information from Fire Captain David Jenkins of the Honolulu Fire Department shows there were 187 mountain rescues in 2015, 260 rescues in 2016 and 166 rescues this year, as of June 20, 2017.
O‘ahu alone has 43 hiking trails managed by the DLNR, yet many people visit unmanaged trails in areas where hikers are more prone to injury. Some of the most dangerous hiking trails, such as Olomana’s third peak, Pu’u Manamana (Crouching Lion) and Haiku Stairs (The Stairway to Heaven), are among the most popular trails on social media platforms.
These hikes have been increasingly popular because people “learn about the trails through social media,” as Jenkins stated in a phone interview. When searching the Pu’u Manamana hike, the first few sites that pop up are blogs with unreliable sources and alluring pictures encouraging people to go on the hike.
When searched on Instagram, the location “Haiku Stairs” has hundreds of pictures of enthusiastic hikers who have climbed the unsteady stairs up the side of the Ko‘olau Mountains, despite the hike’s closure to the public.
The appeal of venturing off-trail can be a fatal attraction for people looking for adventure, and the perfect picture to post. But why would anyone risk their life for a picture? The answer lies in the platforms many people use for hours a day: social media.
The pressure to post interesting and likeable content on social media has pushed young people to put their lives in danger on hazardous hikes. As more and more people post pictures of their hiking adventures, others begin to feel like they need to go out and do the extreme just to fit in.
The misinformation spread through social media makes difficult hikes seem easy, and does not prepare people well enough. If more people referred to the DNLR’s website regarding Hawai‘i’s hikes, instead of social media posts, fewer people would suffer a tragic fate like Chu.
“Social media platforms and blog sites encourage hikers to look for dangerous hikes,” Yee said.
“The trend now seems to be to look for the riskiest hike with the ‘best’ reward.”
When you put yourself in danger to appear adventurous to your peers, you have gone too far. Yee added, “big rewards … don’t need to come with big dangers.”
Do not put yourself in serious danger for the #instaworthy picture, and do not measure your enjoyment by the number of likes you get. Life is not all that social media makes it appear to be. Instead of being worried about how to get the best picture on a hike, enjoy yourself. Take a break from the distractions on your phone and appreciate the genuine magnificence of the land around you.