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OSU Study - No Big Social Media Effect At State Parks

TERREBONNE, OR -- A new study from Oregon State University published in Land Economics shows social media doesn’t have as much effect on State Park visitations as once thought.

OSU’s Dr. Ashley Lowe Mackenzie says the research goes against a narrative that apps like Instagram push visitors to find more scenic locations, “Initially a lot of the conversations were around how geo tagging was increasing visitation across various different locations. And the research we did, we found that it was really isolated to a small set of parks that went kind of viral on the app.” The survey of 18 years’ worth of data shows geotagged posts increased monthly visitation by 4% at Smith Rock, Silver Falls, Ecola, and Oswald West Parks. “People within the app really liked those locations and you could tell from the amount of likes that those photos received and Smith Rock of course, was one of the most viral parks out of the Oregon State Parks,” says Dr. Lowe Mackenzie.

Dr. Steve Dundas tells KBND News officials can use the information to gauge trends at popular spots, including Smith Rock, “I view this as a cautionary tale for public land managers who tend to be chronically understaffed and underfunded that at any given moment, there might be a natural feature that's under their management, that could go viral. They could be in line to experience some kind of increase in visitation…Potentially even predict where that next kind of big new place or thing where people want to get selfies will be. And that could help them plan for influxes of visitors that you know, they have to balance providing a good visitation experience while also protecting their resources.”

Dr. Lowe Mackenzie is currently working on a similar study of national parks.


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