Not every travel moment is picture perfect. (sometimes the self-timer beats you)
I’ve been avoiding getting into another TV series these past few months. I didn’t want to fall into a trap and binge watch another Netflix-produced masterpiece that would have me neglecting to interact with other human beings for days. The other night, however, I watched a few episodes of Black Mirror.
The episode “Nosedive” resonated strongly with me; watching it was like being punched in the face. If you haven’t seen it, it explores the idea of people being rated on a 5-point scale, with their corresponding “rating” having serious social implications. Instagram follower validation x100. While we haven’t hit this level of social dystopia yet, it got me thinking about social media and the rise of “influencers,” especially in the travel realm, and their implications on travel, both as an industry and way of life.
I follow a lot of travel accounts. In my free time, I look at pictures of beautiful places and add to my travel bucket list almost daily. I interact with other travel bloggers and video makers and have even been sponsored by a few companies to create content on my blog, this blog that you’re reading right now. Social media and the Internet is incredibly robust and it can be a wonderful tool for spreading information. Now, what was once a place for illustrating our real lives with images has turned into a nonstop feed of glamorized advertisements.
I’m talking about the big travel and lifestyle influencers. The accounts with millions of followers, typically of couples who are location-independent models, living a travel lifestyle that is only attainable by the rich and powerful while being hopelessly desired by the rest of us. The ones who snap perfect photos with the same pose in a hundred different locations. Holding hands, looking away, carefully positioning their wrists to showcase an expensive watch or pretending to adjust their designer sunglasses. All the women look the same, and so do their partners.
And to make matters worse, they want to sell you something so that you can look JUST LIKE THEM. Their Adobe Lightroom presets.
What are presets? They are a custom-made filter edits for photos to tweak them before social media publishing. Anyone can make presets using a variety of different photo-editing apps, all available for mobile phones. VSCO, Instagram, Adobe Lightroom, and Snapseed are just a few that come to mind. You can play around and make your own. Or, if you want to pretend that you are a travel influencer with millions of followers, you can buy the ones that some of the top “influencers” have created, apply them to your photos taken in exotic places, and VOILA! Perfect photos. Just pay a low fee of $75 for a set of presets. Yes, really, $75 for essentially an Instagram expansion pack.
Where will this end?
Platforms that were once great ways to inspire others to seek adventure and step out of their comfort zone has turned into advertisements of expensive products and a false reality. YouTubers have sold out. Instagrammers have sold out. Bloggers have sold out. Sure, maybe these influencers really like some of the products that they are selling. But now their accounts are nothing more than advertisements. It’s worse than flipping through the glossy pages of a fashion magazine. They don’t illustrate a realistic goal to obtain for most people looking to incorporate more travel into their busy lives. It doesn’t show what travel really IS. No one wears a romper to ride a camel into the Sahara. The average person cannot afford five-star hotels and top-shelf champagne when trying to explore a new part of the world. It’s a complete farce about what travel really IS for the majority of us who seek it out.
Travel is missed flight connections. Travel is long airport layovers at strange hours. Travel is when your connecting flight gets canceled and your only source of food is some packaged garbage from a vending machine. It’s sketchy bus stations filled with hard-looking locals smoking cigarettes. It’s sweating through your shirt in 100-degree heat or shivering uncontrollably because you did a terrible job of packing and didn’t realize that mountains would still have snow on them. It’s unexpected expenses, being ripped off, exhausting haggling, language and cultural barriers, lots of waiting and the ever creeping feeling that you just want to snap your fingers to “get home” as soon as possible, but knowing that it won’t be that easy.
Travel is also the most fulfilling thing that you can do with your life. All of the downs are accompanied by incredible ups that cannot be matched by purchasing any material item. And you don’t have to be white, with a perfect physique and blonde hair, to travel and reap all the joy and benefits that it has to offer.
In 2018 I want to see the rise of influencers who are celebrated because they spread REAL knowledge, inspiration, and real advice, all from different perspectives. We’ve seen it happen with the body positivity movement. Models no longer all look like carbon copies of Twiggy or Gemma Ward. Truth is being injected into different industries as consumers demand it. I want to see Instagram accounts that don’t look like a carefully curated gallery, but rather a collection of different stories that add up to a meaningful life of adventure. You don’t need millions of dollars to afford travel, you don’t need to be white and blonde to gain a social media following, and you don’t, for the love of all things Holy, need to buy some photo presets in order to create interesting photos.
Here’s to authenticity in 2018. Don’t shoot to be an influencer, shoot photos that will evoke memories that bring a smile to your face.
AND – here are some of my favorite influencers who are helping to spread diversity & the realness