Where do you get inspiration from to travel to extraordinary destinations around the world? If you responded Instagram, then you’re obviously just clicks away from purchasing your ticket to get to that dream destination. Instagram now has over 500 million users sharing an average of 80 millions photos a day. Evidently, we are consumed by the digital world in which we live and it’s imagery greatly influences our travel decisions. The Instagrammability of a travel hotspot is now the ultimate motivation for booking a holiday for millennials.
People have the growing desire to escape to scenic landscapes and experience something real, more than ever before. However, many of us are blindsided by the picturesque travel imagery we see on the gram, which often fails to accurately portray real life travel experiences. Many of these photos follow a certain format. A thin, blonde, white girl who stands in a floral red dress which is swept into the air by the wind, her back to the camera, in a preordained divine location – #wanderlust, at its finest. Instagram is an extremely effective marketing platform which plays an integral part in the tourism industry.
Although, images fail to encapsulate the true essence of travel, which involves the adventure, challenges and spontaneity involved in actually being present. You’re missing out on the true experience if you’re only viewing it through a camera lens and then spending the next five minutes trying to pick out the perfect filter and caption.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe flock to travel destinations based on their “Insta-worthiness.” Somewhere like Machu Picchu in Peru is now often explored for its endless fields of rainbow coloured mountains. After a photo is captured here for the followers, social media influences often move onto the next destination forgetting about the rest of the country.
Another great example that misrepresents the experience are Instagram travel photos captured in Marrakesh, Morocco. Instagram personalities such as Sapphiroula snap the most glamourous locations of Morocco (as seen below). However, what viewers often misinterpret is that this image is an inaccurate representation of the developing streets of Morocco which are on the other side of the hotel door. It’s essential that as travellers we explore places rather than just limit ourselves to the comfort of visiting a place whether it’s a new city, an Instagram-worthy art museum or a cafe that sells rainbow latte’s.
Despite this, Instagram is a great platform to share experiences and establish communities where people worldwide can connect and share their travel stories. On the other hand, it can also highlight the significant social and environmental issues that we face today. One of the most tragic is when the desire to replicate a travel experience comes at a life-threatening cost.
In 2015, a 24-year-old Australian student lost her footing and fell to her death while trying to re-create the iconic shot at Trolltunga. Also in 2014, a Polish couple crossed the safety barrier at Cabo da Roca, Portugal, to take a selfie and slipped off the cliff edge. These are only a few of the many reports of tourists disregarding signage and safety warnings.
Instagram is home to an extraordinary amount of ‘influencers.’ Travel companies such as Lux Life and similar agencies collaborate with social media influencers by flying them to a selected destination to capture stunning Instagram worthy pics. The ultimate goal behind this process is to boost each others following base, which says a lot about how superficial the internet has become.
This inaccurate portrayal of travel captured and uploaded by social media influencers and travel bloggers conveys unnatural perceptions surrounding true travel experiences. Travel imagery posted to Instagram is often presented as a highlight reel, which creates a gap in the relationship between travel and exploration.
Social media plays a hugely influential role in the tourism industry. Now photos you can view online can almost replicate your travel experience. This is an unnatural approach to travel and can also heighten or diminish predetermined expectations.
All thanks to social media influencers, we now arrive at the Eiffel Tower prepared to capture some super candid pics to showcase a beautiful sunny afternoon, sitting on soft green grass shared with only a few people in sight. Here we are… ready to crack open a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and bite into some chocolate dipped strawberries. When in fact, believe it or not, there are thousands of other people doing the exact same thing and the grass ain’t all lush and green, there is actually dirt patches and cigarette butts scattered like confetti on the picnic grounds. Ha, that’s right Instagram failed to capture this! You will also come across hundreds of men dangling miniature Eiffel Towers in your face while repeating over and over, “you buy, you buy!?” Meanwhile, you’re just trying to sit there and enjoy your glass of Veuve.
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, next time you jet set across the globe, remember that some of the most photogenic destinations of the world don’t merely reflect the history, culture and experiences associated with travel.
Essentially, there are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to people posting travel photos. Firstly, everyday people like the majority of us trying to document and share a highlight reel for Instagram and friends and family back home. On the other hand, an abundance of social media influencers are being paid to go to some of the most luxurious and ‘grammable’ destinations in the world. Clearly, there’s some stark differences between the two and people scrolling their social media feed back home for the inspo, aren’t getting the REAL picture.