In our digital age, image is everything. Style over substance is the aim of the game. On Instagram, you can show the world your perfect lifestyle, complete with matching outfits, dream holidays and aesthetic looks. You can do this knowing full well none of it is true. We can express our personality, or hide it. This age of information is also the age of misinformation. Travelling is no different. To pack up and leave your comfort zone, experiencing new cultures and climates, to converse without the need for a smartphone, can seem magical. It can also be an outright lie, but plastered over Instagram dressed up as the truth. So why do people travel just for the Instas, and should you?
To be clear, this isn’t a problem exclusively with Instagram. The idea of using photos to tell stories or even just express yourself is a good one, and it is this function which is why most people use the service. But it can be so tempting to give a false impression of your trip. The classic “gap yah” trope is a good example. Did you travel for months, taking photos of only a few instances of actually experiencing the culture and talking to people? Or did you travel for months, hanging out by a pool, then took a lot of pictures on the one day you went to a market? Nobody can tell, it could be either.
Alternatively, some people can use Instagram in the right way, but excessively. Where once Gary would bore his entire family with his hours-long slideshow in his front room, now he can bore the whole world. Nobody cares, Gary. Nobody cares. Similarly, you can watch a ten minute long Snapchat story of Sarah’s 1975 concert she went to last night. Nobody cares, Sarah. Nobody cares.
Don’t misinterpret me, there is nothing wrong with taking pictures of some amazing views and sharing them with your friends. I also accept that you do naturally want to show off where you’ve been. But as with all social media, what you post does have consequences. There comes a time when your activity doesn’t just concern itself with FOMO, or you “living your best life”, but lying about a whole different one. This can have real consequences for your own mental health. If your digital life becomes something unobtainable and a world away from your own, you will generally compare the two. And because your own life cannot live up to pure fantasy, this can naturally make anyone upset.
Social media happened so quickly to our generation at such a young age that nobody had time to process it fully. We poured our lives into these apps, and it felt easy to become engrossed in another world. But the point at which a tool starts to consume you, is the point at which to take a step back and re-evaluate. The popular images people put up to show off how exciting their travels are is a microcosm for social media’s impact on wider society. The tunnel vision of fake news and misinformation distorts people’s political views. In the same way, a tunnel vision of unrealistic lifestyles distorts people’s views of themselves.