Nobody hates the term “influencer” more than I do, and my relationship with Instagram is pretty love-hate. I go from periods of posting aesthetically perfect travel photos daily to not posting for months at a time, feeling bored and indifferent to identical posts with the Eiffel Tower in the background and a girl wearing a ball gown in the middle of the afternoon.
While on vacation, it can feel exhausting to constantly stop in front of oceans and monuments to get that perfect “walking away” shot or “looking off into the distance like there isn’t a camera in front of you” photo. Dinner turns cold while you move things around the table; I even slapped my poor husband’s hand away when he made the mistake of touching fork to pizza before I could take a #pizzainItaly #livingmybestlife picture while in Lake Garda on our honeymoon.
In November and December 2018, the Ibis hotel chain offered customers the chance to hire a “social media sitter”. This sitter is an Instagram influencer with many followers and a lot of experience. During your vacation, this person will post your travel photos and stories for you while you actually enjoy vacation.
While this service would seem like a God-send for the frequent traveler and Instagram poster who needs a break from social media, it’s evidence of the stress many people feel at having to post a picture of every vacation, meal, get-together, glass of wine, job promotion, new house, new car and outfit. It’s evidence of the old joke, “if you didn’t post it on Instagram, did it really happen?” It’s an upsetting fact of life that we feel the events that happen to us don’t exist if other people don’t view them.
My husband and I were on vacation in Lake Como last week, and while I did take photos, I kept them only for us. Not one noodle, statue, boat, or couple selfie ended up on the gram. The idea of taking pictures simply for the memories and not to impress other people or cause them jealousy gave me a feeling of so much freedom, like a weight was off my shoulders. And, until that weight was gone, I didn’t realize how heavy it actually was.
Two years ago, on our previous trip to Italy for our honeymoon, I took an Instagram photo with every dress I had in front of every cute Italian building, every sunny terrace, and every cafe with a spritzer in hand. My boyfriend had not only become my husband but he had become my Instagram husband.
While my feed looked amazing after that trip and I got tons of likes and followers, none of that felt like it was worth all the effort. Rather than walking the Italian alleyways in search of the world’s best parmesan cheese, I was searching for the best lighting and waiting for pedestrians to get out of my shot. Worrying about social media while trying to relax on vacation not only puts a whole lot of stress on one’s shoulders, but many people feel forced to make things look more rose-tinted than they actually are.
In 2018, Allianz Global assistance released their Vacation Confidence Index with some key findings about travel habits in relation to social media. The study found that 36% of millennial’s have posted Instagram photos in hopes of making their followers think their trips are better than they are. Of those that said this, 65% said they do it in order to make people jealous.
While on a group tour to Israel and Jordan in June, I posted a variety of pictures as I was promoting a travel company. The trip was incredibly fun and I met a lot of people but one thing I didn’t enjoy was Petra. So many people dream of going to what is now one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and many of those in my group went on the trip just to see it.
I, however, hated it; to be very blunt. While I found the area to be exquisite and interesting to see, the animal abuse I witnessed was too much for me. Donkeys that were frail and carrying enormous people up steep mountains for hours and hours without a break. Horses pulling carriages of people while being whipped, and so tired I watched one foam at the mouth before fainting. A camel sitting in front of the treasury with Visa/Mastercard shaved into his neck on one side and Free Wifi on the other. The whole area felt like a horror movie and I spent 3 hours with tears in my eyes, downing a 6 Euro bottle of Gatorade, and feeding crackers to stray dogs.
Yet, looking at my Instagram, you would think I had a fantastic, life changing experience in Petra. I looked like Indiana Jane, standing on top of huge boulders, looking out over the treasury, living my best life. But, behind the pictures, I was upset and couldn’t wait to leave.
While traveling, it’s easy to become so conscious of how every experience will look on your Instagram feed that it takes away from the experience of the actual moment. Who wants to sit across from someone at dinner who stands on their chair to get a picture of the meal rather than immediately digging in and enjoying some conversation?
While walking through Milan, one of the most touristy cities I’ve ever been to, I saw 5 people within an hour all taking pictures for Instagram. Girls standing in front of the Louis Vuitton store with new purses and shopping bags on display, couples with selfie sticks, and a girl holding gelato with the cathedral in the background. Every single picture looked identical to one I had seen before, and thinking of this made me feel indescribably bored. Rather than showing the reality of travel destinations throughout the world, we see perfected, heavily edited shots that take away from what it’s truly like to experience these places.
While there is nothing wrong with using Instagram or sharing holiday pictures, try going on your next trip without the pressure of a “perfect” photo and take a few just for fun, for the memories. Because, really, wasn’t that the point of pictures to begin with?