I’m peacefully reading a book under the Mediterranean sun when a group of girls plants themselves nearby. They drop their bags, grab their iPhones, and immediately commence a bikini photoshoot by the water with the backdrop of the iconic W Barcelona Hotel.
This show goes on for half an hour as these Instagrammers pass around their mobiles like American sorority girls passing a candle in ceremonial delight. They’re effortlessly posed and in a seek of desperation to document themselves candidly, a sense of urgency that if the photo didn’t happen neither did the moment. Once the act concluded, they picked up their bags and left the beach. It’s just another day in the life of a modern Instagrammer.
This has become the disturbing reality thanks to Instagram and its influencers. As late travel expert Anthony Bourdain said, “Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown,” but travel influencers are not painting that picture. The vast majority paint staged, adventure-less, and heavily edited photographs. Do you know how many Instagrammers edit fake birds and skies into their photographs?
Instagrammers are essentially telling inexperienced travellers that travel culture is based on aesthetics, looking glamorous, and sleeping in high-class hotels. A recent study found the ‘instagramablilty’ of a place is the main factor a millennial seeks when travelling. No, forget culture, cuisine, and scenery, millennials just want to know if the place will match their Instagram aesthetic. Hotels are even jumping on board with this millennial nonsense offering ‘Instagram butlers’ to assist in photoshoots.
Instagram is sucking the thrill and spontaneity out of travel and even photography. Travel photography was once about looking out on the world but now it’s quite the opposite. On social media, it’s self-indulgent, full of men and women facing away from the camera, in an attempt to symbolize that they are looking out and seeking the world, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that they’re too busy seeking the perfect shot to feed their social media to indulge in the beautiful world around them.
They’re selling the idea that travel is a perfect and self-indulgent experience, but true seasoned travellers know this is an illusion. We understand travel to be tiresome, sweaty, overwhelming at times but always worth it. The massive growth of Instagram has had a profoundly negative impact on how we travel. Let’s hope authentic travel can fight through the wreckage.