(The story of people being advised to not pose for selfies with bears has spread internationally, and one photo gets reproduced again and again:
(This composite image manufactured in Photoshop is now worldwide, and was even featured on Jimmy Kimmel’s television program. But there’s a lot more to Jacob Bean than a joke image. On discovering he’s an avid outdoorman and social media user, I asked for an interview, and he agreed to answer some questions. We communicated via Facebook, fittingly enough for our subject.
Jacob is a professional photographer and web designer, and can be reached via his website: Jacob Bean Studios.)
NB: Thank you, Jacob, for agreeing to this interview. How often do you use social media when hiking backpacking etc? Once during the trip? Or more often?
JB: I generally try to stay off social media or the internet when I’m on hiking or camping trips. I go on a internet black out. I do take my phone with me for pics/seflies and take my Canon everywhere I go. I think it is really nice to just get away from everyone and everything. Just be alone in nature and soak it up. A lot of times I will check in or post a status/picture right before my trip or before I hit the trail. Then I try to stay off it till I’m back in civilization.
NB: Have you ever seen anyone do anything dangerous simply for the sake of an interesting looking selfie?
JB: I have hugged some pretty large cliff edges to get some cool pictures. My friends and I generally do head stands in some cool places ( sometimes on mountains edges and bridge ledges ) to get a cool picture to put on Facebook. I have seen people do a lot of the same things for pictures. When I was in Yellowstone I saw a guy run on unstable ground near Old Faithful in order to get a picture close to the geyser. I’m always astonished by urban climbers who scale huge buildings in order to take some gnarly pics and selfies!
NB: What’s it like to be the public face of the Bear Selfie epidemic?
JB: I think it’s really funny and cool for my bear selfie to be spread around the internet. It was posted in late May after a trip in the Smokies. Other than a few likes and comments on Instagram and Facebook, nothing happened with it. Then earlier this week it started popping up everywhere. I first saw it on Mashable and now it’s everywhere. It was even on Jimmy Kimmel last night!
NB: And you always indicated it was a Photoshop job?
JB: Yea. I’ve been very vocal about it. I joked before I left on my trip I was going to get a bear selfie. And when we didn’t see a bear on the trail, I decided to Photoshop it when I got back.
NB: Do you think such photos encourages risky behavior in other people?
JB: Someone found it online. I did originally hashtag it with #bearselfie so I’m sure someone searched that. I tried to get a real selfie in Yellowstone this summer but got yelled at by a park ranger so I couldn’t get close enough. Haha. I’m not dumb. I’m not going to get super close or too close to a bear.
NB: Look up the book Death in Yellowstone. Its filled with stories of people doing silly things with bears, bison, and geysers. I’m not criticizing just noting people have been doing such things for a century.
JB: I think it’s our human nature to push boundaries. Of course when someone tells us not to do something we want to do it even more. All these articles about not taking selfies with bears is probably going to encourage more people to take selfies with bears and other wildlife.
NB: In your opinion are a lot of the bear selfie photos Photoshop jobs? Or are they likely real?
JB: Most of the ones I’ve seen look pretty real. I was the bear selfie hipster. Did it before it was cool. Haha.
NB: Speaking of being a hipster, how old are you?
JB: I’m 24. And I’m not a hipster.
NB: From your photos you don’t look like one. So how often do you hike, backpack, ride a bike, climb etc? Once a week? Once a month? Seasonally?
JB: I live in a pretty mountainous area of Georgia. I try to get out once a week at least to do some day hiking. Every year I always do a big hiking trip. Last year I did Glacier National Park and Bavaria, Germany. This year I spent time hiking on the Oregon Coast and hiked in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
NB: Do you think there’s been a drop in the numbers of people who do outdoor activities such as hiking?
JB: I’m not sure. The trails I usually visit don’t see a lot of people. I might see less than five. Some days I see none. It varies.
NB: And more particularly a drop in such things among your generation?
JB: Yes, I definitely think that my generation spends more time in doors, playing video games or surfing the internet. I feel like the majority of people I run into on camping, hiking trips are people older than me.
NB: One last question. … what do you suggest can be done to get your generation and younger people active and outdoors?
JB: There needs to be a way, rather by getting celebrities to talk about it (like the it gets better campaign or the go vote campaign) or traditional media advertising, people need to realize that you are only young once. When we are young are bodies are generally in better shape and we have a lot more energy. We need to realize that and do things that are adventurous and fun. By hiking, camping, biking, rock climbing, kayaking, etc we are getting away from a world tied down by social media and the internet. We are enjoying the natural beauty of are world and also doing good for our bodies. Being active in nature is really important. I don’t want to squander my youth by spending time on the couch playing video games or watching Netflix all day. I think those things are fun and I do partake in them. But only in moderation. I would rather be out in the mountains exploring new trails and territory then doing it on a game console.
NB: Thank you, Jacob, for the interview.