DON’T WE ALL LIKE gawking at dreamy Instagram photos set in the most beautiful corners of the world? There’s nothing wrong with that, as I concluded in a recent post about the very human need to quench our thirst for beauty. But in light of the fact that I am one of those contributing to the immense pool of “feelgood” Instagram travel photos, it might sound weird from me, how increasingly bored I am getting with the current trend of hyping travel via illusory images.
I am an avid traveler. I travelled even before I started my Instagram account and purchased my first DSLR camera. I can only thank Instagram for helping me focus on photography, which has since grown into a passion. Sharing on the online platform really provided incredible motivation to return to my creative self, which I seemed to be losing during those years of gaining my foothold in the business world. But before I get too emotional over the merits of Instagram, let’s not forget I am here to launch a tirade against it.
While I once had a pure love of travel (and my photography reflected that), in the last 2 years, Instagram has radically changed my focus: these days, rather than travelling just for the sake of it, I am constantly on the lookout for places I can take photos that would look good/do well on Instagram.
A bejegyzés megtekintése az Instagramon
A bejegyzés megtekintése az Instagramon
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It all started in a Dublin pub with an innocent photo taken with an iPhone 5. Two years later, I am posing for a cliche shot in Iceland, which was taken with a pricey dslr camera and edited later. The quote I used – as you can guess – had nothing to do with how I felt in that particular moment.
So, Instagram has me torn over what I think about it. I love it, but I also kind of hate it. To work all of this out for myself (and hopefully for you, too), I’ve come up with a number aspects that I’m chewing on and hope, eventually, to digest.
So many “likes,” but doubts remain
Here’s the thing: despite the growing number of followers and likes I get, I’ve been feeling worse about my whole Instagram presence. I would guess that I am probably not the only one out there with similar feelings. Why? First of all, I started comparing myself with other Instagrammers and I have always felt my contributions might be less than theirs. You will always find more skilled photographers, younger and more beautiful people, full-time travellers with more miles travelled, etc. There is no way you can get out of this cutthroat competition feeling completely satisfied with yourself. Having a degree in psychology, I don’t even blink an eye when reading studies on this platform’s negative effects on one’s self-esteem – it’s no surprise. I welcome Instagram’s recent efforts towards “digital wellbeing,” but at the moment, it seems more like a band-aid on a burst pipe.
FOMO – Fear of missing out
Since I’ve been an Instagrammer, the length of my bucket list has increased by about a 100 times with new “must-go” destinations. Have you ever felt panicky about wanting to get to those “oh so breathtaking places” and realizing they were too many while life was just too short?
If one is not a full-time traveller making money while on the road – or God forbid – you have a full time job, it is mission impossible to make those dreams come true. I have never ever thought that travelling, originally a source of joy, would become such a source of stress.
And then there are those times when you actually make it to one of those “dream” places. The problem with fabulous “surreal” images is when we make very real decisions based on them. We see pics of destinations and say, “hey, let’s go there!” and the disappointment when we see the actual place is almost guaranteed. Because the photos you see on Instagram carefully hide signs of overtourism, flaws, difficulties, culture shock and so on. In reality, most times when we get there we will come face to face with countless other tourists just like ourselves queueing for a photo on Trolltunga, flooding the streets in Mykonos or getting totally confused in Asia.
The lack of information
I am sure you’ve seen those cliffhanger movies with no (or an ambiguous) ending, when they leave it all to your imagination. Now this is how I feel about dramatic images with meaningless captions without even a “link in bio” leading to a blog post or just more photos to help me get a deeper understanding of a given destination. Bullshit quotes like “Traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller” make me confused, because the last thing I find there is a story. Maybe these Instagrammers are still in the speechless phase?
Feet sticking out of a tent; figure in a yellow coat in front of a waterfall; back of a bold female dragging a man by the hand. I am sure you have come across these pictures. You’ve seen them all, right? Anytime I see a replicate photo depicting the same spot from the same angle, I wonder who the first person was who took it, the inventor of the composition. The success of image repetition on Instagram entails a sad message that originality may not even matter anymore. Why would one bother to find a new spot or new angle if a particular shot has worked for hundreds before? It is much easier to ride the wave someone else created.
One way or another, I find it difficult to think outside of the box about all this when there is so much hype surrounding a certain style of image, because – at the end of the day – Instagram is about getting feedback that your pic is good. And we go a long way to get those likes sometimes by copying, others at the price of not even liking your own work. Bittersweet, ain’t it?