Monday, January 24
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Real Experience VS Instagram Travel Pictures

Social media influencer

One billion people use Instagram every month. That’s about 1 in 8 of every single living person on the planet! 

So, safe to say, Instagram is a pretty big deal. And as Instagram users and frequent travelers know, it is one of the main ways that so many of us document our vacations, explorations, and adventures. 

Instagram is overwhelmed with travel photos and images of gorgeous, exotic destinations around the world. #instatravel and #travelgram are two of the most popular hashtags on the app, and when you open up Insta in the morning (or afternoon, if your willpower is greater than ours) you won’t have to scroll far to see some awesome vacation snaps.

Instagram is a great way to chronicle your adventures, in real-time with Stories, and after the event with Posts. It is an easy and attractive way to share your experiences with your friends and family, and a great way to make the memories of your trip last a little longer. 

But, is Instagram really a realistic depiction of travel, or is it overly aspirational, the ‘best version’ of what we’ve seen? Does Instagram encourage certain negative travel tendencies? And can it actually spoil our enjoyment of the real experience, with too much time spent concentrating on getting the perfect shot for the ‘gram?

Let’s get a little deeper into the arguments about Instagram vs Reality, and see where we get to!

Instagram vs Reality

In our heart of hearts, we know that Instagram is a long way from reality. From the very beginning, Instagram has not been a raw, unfiltered platform for hard truths and ugly reality. It is a place where you present the best side of your life, your favorite shots, beautified by Instagram’s in-built filters. 

But the rise of influencer culture has turbo-charged this tendency and taken it to the next level. Instagram influencers are professionals, using Instagram to communicate with their audience, and have the time, money, gear, and ability to create a perfect, idealized world – something which is beyond the reach of most casual users. 

Looking at travel photos on Instagram can be a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience. Plenty of people these days make their vacation decisions based on images they’ve seen on the app – heading off to the beautiful places to capture their own photos. And sure, a lot of the time you’ll find that reality matches up – there are, after all, some truly magnificent places to visit on this little blue rock of ours! But packing your bags and following Instagram around the world can easily lead to disappointment, as the destination fails to live up to the filtered, retouched, and professionally captured images that led you there in the first place. 

For casual Instagram users this isn’t a big deal. It’s still a great place to share your vacation snaps, and an equally great place to get inspiration. But it is always wise to remember that whatever it is, it isn’t a window into reality, and to maintain a sense of distance and expectation management.

The Problem With Insta-Famous Spots

One serious problem that Instagram has exacerbated, if not actually created, is the overcrowding of certain, specific, photogenic and Insta-worthy spots.

Of course, beautiful locations around the world have been crowded since the beginning of mass tourism. It is completely natural that the most picturesque places attract the most people. And ever since travel photography became popular (particularly with the advent of high-quality camera phones), particularly photogenic locations have drawn anyone with a lens.

But there is a particular problem with the ‘Instagram photo opportunity’. In so many places around the world, there is one (or a few) specific locations that draw the Instagram crowds. They might be particularly photogenic, look great on Instagram, or just be absolutely representative of the particular destination. Did you really go to Mexico City without posting a photo of the Mexico Mi Amor sign, pink wall, and cactuses outside Tane in Polanco? Is it worth knowing Milford Sound on a cruise without getting a sunrise photo of Mitre Peak?

This creates an exponential issue. As more and more people share these specific shots, more and more people want to come and take their own. Before you know it, there’s a queue to take a photo under the Eiffel Tower, and potentially fragile destinations begin to struggle. 

Some destinations lean in to this tendency, with great effect. Almost every pretty little town in Mexico has its own name spelled out in giant, bright letters in the main square, with a small queue of people taking photos, and this can be a big marketing pull for less well-known destinations. But it does come with a risk, and at a cost.  

Should You Put Your Phone Down and Enjoy the View?

There is a strong argument that while taking photographs and posting on Instagram is great, you only get the full experience of travel if you are fully present. While saving memories is important, making them is even more so!

If you are too caught up in taking photos, or searching for that particular perfect Instagram shot, chances are you’ll miss out some of the most important aspects of traveling, and fail to see some of the less picturesque but equally fascinating and intriguing sights along the way. 

A camera, or a phone, can act as a barrier, a wall in between you and your destination. It is much harder to talk to locals or learn about the history of a place if you are snapping away all the time!

Of course, no one is suggesting that you don’t take photos of your travels. Travel photography is magnificent, and one of the best ways of documenting your adventures. And Instagram is also a great way to share what you are doing and where you are going with everyone back home. But do always keep in mind that experiencing your vacations is just as important as documenting them, and sometimes, just sometimes, you can leave the camera at home!

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