Social media has made travel more accessible than ever. Your perfect destination guide is just a search away, complete with personal recommendations and ridiculously good-looking photographs. But does Instagram influence your travel more than you realise?
A survey by Schofields Insurance featured in The Independent recently found that 40.1% of millennials (a word I find hard to write without cringing) choose their next holiday destination based on how Instagrammable it is. Yep, this factor beat out sightseeing, personal development AND trying local foods all put together. So, is our obsession with Instagram becoming unhealthy? If social media plays such a crucial role in our decisions, are we nothing more than sheep chasing the same snapshots with no real focus on experiences?
I’m not so sure. Where we would once use travel brochures to pick our dream holiday destinations, we now use social media. Visuals have always played a part in the places we visit but now our photo albums are online. Instagram became a major factor in planning my must-visit destinations in New Zealand. Pure New Zealand, among so many other amazing accounts, post unbelievable pictures of one of the world’s most photogenic countries and I was hooked on searching for ideas in my feed.
The accessibility of discovering new places can also open a whole range of new experiences. Last summer, I saw a stunning picture online, wrote down ‘Roy’s Peak’ in my Notes app then promptly forgot all about it. Fast forward almost six months and a brochure in our Wanaka hostel room listed the great walks in the area, Roy’s Peak among them. Instantly remembering the incredible views, I enthusiastically begged to do the five hour hike like I never would have otherwise. Thanks to Instagram, knowing what was waiting at the top was the only thing driving my aching calves up that steep hill. You can see some more snaps of the day here – Hiking to Roy’s Peak.
But while in theory I have a level head on my shoulders, the desire to capture an iconic shot can be irresistible. In the lead up to leaving for Australia, seeing pictures of the Bondi Icebergs Club had me buzzing with excitement. The idea of seeing a place that you’ve eyed up online for so long was mind-blowing. So imagine my dismay when I finally got there to find the pool closed for cleaning: I went back just to get that perfect shot for Instagram.
It seems that the negatives come into play when you really examine your reasons for posting online. I love having a virtual photo diary to look back on and flicking through my feed = happy memories galore. But the validation that comes when more and more people hit like can fuel an unhealthy obsession. Behind every Insta-perfect life, there’s a real person with problems, insecurities and issues and yet this reality is often obscured by a Valencia-esque tint.
Throughout my solo trip to Australia, I posted pictures that represent great memories. But they were also covering up how much I was struggling with loneliness behind the scenes. Nobody would have known from the outside that my experience was anything other than fantastic. Sure, you don’t want to share every detail of your life online. But something about my actions felt a little dishonest. It wasn’t until months later that I wrote a blog post explaining why solo travel is not for me.
In reality, using social media to scout out your next holiday destination is smart. You can instantly read dozens of reviews by your peers and that’s amazing. But a healthy sense of balance is definitely needed to keep some perspective. Go ahead and pose in the infinity pool but explore that beautiful countryside in the background too. Check out that hipster cafe but also visit the family-run restaurant selling fabulously cheap local food. Let’s keep those wanderlust-inducing posts coming but also promise to keep it real, ok?
*this post contains collaborative content