A 22-year-old Instagram blogger who shares pics of her hikes around Australia has made an emotional plea to people abusing her for revealing the names of some of the country’s best (and supposedly most secret) spots.
“I’m going to kindly ask if everyone with an unkind, negative or straight up nasty thought to please STOP,” wrote Madeline Zotter on her Instagram account, @waterfallwandering. “This weekend alone I received 4 abusive, unkind or negative messages because I wrote the location of a place. I am human, your words HURT and I spent a good part of my Easter (and this morning) crying.”
She said that her Instagram has been “an outlet” for the last three years, but that the abuse had left her feeling upset.
“I understand that people don’t want an area becoming trashed, however to find any of these spots you just need to log onto a NSW [national parks] website and look up the area (so they’re really not that secret).”
Referring to some abuse she’d received, she also added: “It has also come to my attention that if I ever stick up for myself by saying this it means I am a ‘brat who humiliates people’. It needs to stop #wordsareweapons.”
Zotter, who is originally from Wollongong, regularly posts pics of tranquil, lush-as-hell waterfalls from around Australia and beyond, and has amassed almost 13,000 followers.
She told News.com.au that she started the account as a way to manage her mental health, after recovering from a suicide attempt.
“For a long time after this I was very upset I didn’t successfully end my own life and didn’t believe life was going to get better,” she said, explaining that she’d dealt with depression and anxiety during high school. “I tried so many things to create a better mindset for myself however, the one true place I felt grounded was in the outdoors.”
She set up the page in 2015 as a way to share her hiking trips and talk about mental health and the positive impact of time spent outdoors.
“It initially was as a positive account, often receiving messages from followers saying thank you for inspiring them to get outdoors and exploring the area,” she said.
“Sadly in the last year spending time outdoors has turned into an exclusive club and almost a competition. In the past few months I have received almost 20 abusive messages from fellow hikers for revealing the names of locations.
“I have been called words such as a brat, told I am the reason for National Parks being trashed and was even told to go back and stick my head under the water a little bit longer. Purely because I listed the name of the place that others believe should be kept a secret.”
Some of the places she’s visited include the pools at Bush Rangers Bay, Boundary Falls in the Gibraltar Range, and Larapinta Falls in Queensland, as well as international destinations like the popular Kasawan Falls in Cebu, Philippines.
She says she believes that if a location is within a National Park, it’s not a secret, and should be available for anyone who wishes to experience it, “not just those in the ‘exclusive club.”
“I have been sent so many kind messages by loved ones and strangers that it completely overrides the bad,” she wrote on Instagram, after the abuse she was receiving was first reported.
“It has really reminded me how much good there really is in this world. Thank you so much everyone I really appreciate your kindness and I will do my best to thank you all!”
If you would like to talk to someone anonymously about issues around depression, anxiety or bullying, you can call BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or the Kids Helpline (ages 5 to 25) on 1800 55 1800. If you are in distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.