Have travelers become victims of Instagram?
EXPLOREST, an app designed to help people discover and Instagram sights by using a database of photo locations curated by local photographers, has been launched in Hong Kong.
Along with the rollout, the app has revealed 80 “location insights” across the city, including some popular locations such as the view from bar Ozone at the Ritz-Carlton and the IFC towers shot at night.
The promising app, which includes information on how to get to the locations and even weather updates, aims to give those in the “Instagram rat race” a big boost. At the time of writing, it already has 42,000 free users.
Instagram has become the deciding factor for travel, with “Instagrammability” becoming the most important factor for millennials and Gen Z-ers on choosing a holiday destination. And not so much the curiosity about the food, culture, or weather.
In fact, a lot of the time, Instagramming starts even before they board the plane.
You know, the ones that are usually taken at the airport: a boarding pass (sometimes tucked in between passport pages), legs on luggage at the boarding gate, a selfie with the airplane on the tarmac.
Way before Instagram had the carousel slideshow photo album and Stories features, people would often post pictures and videos back-to-back while “live updating” from somewhere halfway across the world.
To the point where the “travel bragging” spam becomes unbearable. Yes, we get it. You are on holiday.
And that is not the only downside of Instagram.
The unhealthy appetite for Instagram is also responsible for overtourism as people travel and wrestle to take iconic pictures in the same iconic places.
“Getting the photo and getting it on Instagram or Facebook is becoming the purpose of the trip — it’s the reason for going,” UK-based Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis told ABC.
And when enough people do that, destinations will start feeling the weight of the visitors. The paradise island of Bali in Indonesia, Thailand’s Maya Bay, the recently reopened Boracay island in the Philippines, and Byron Bay in Australia are good examples of that.
Some hotels and resorts, such as the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, even offer “Instagram butlers” who are on standby to help guests figure out how to get the best possible Instagram photos.
The Conrad Maldives Rangali Island also has an “Insta trail” which highlights “the hidden secrets and not-so-obvious spots on the island, the best angles to capture a specific moment.”
Well, not so hidden anymore if everyone gets on it and brags about it on Instagram.
Has Instagram taken the joy out of traveling by sucking the soul out of travelers who are constantly seeking social approval?
Have you ever had a group travel situation where nobody is talking to each other because they are too busy updating their respective Instagram accounts with carefully edited shots?
If you are spending a bulk of your vacation staring at attractions through your smartphone screen or camera display or constantly thinking of Instagram captions to go with your posts, then you probably are not getting much out of your travel.
If you often catch yourself reviewing your Instagram highlights or feed later on because you cannot for the life of you remember where you went, what you did, or where you ate, then it is likely that you have become a victim of the platform.
Instagram has dulled our travel experiences and impaired our memory, and that is because we are never really there in the moment. But it is not too late to pull yourself out of the social media funk.
Before you jet off again, maybe invest in a camera and take pictures with it instead of your smartphone to minimize your activities on it.
Alternatively, use Instagram’s carousel slideshow photo album feature to post a compilation of your adventures later, perhaps at the end of a day. There is absolutely no harm in posting up #throwback content.
If you see a “We do not have WiFi. Talk to each other. Pretend it’s 1995.” sign in a restaurant or a cafe that you are in, realize that it is probably a good thing and you can put your smartphone back in your bag or pocket.
Have a nice, cold drink, idly watch the world go by, and etch new memories by taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells. Your future self will thank you for it.