Instagramers. They’re everywhere. They visit the most exotic places in the world just to show off that they’ve been there, turning many a backpackers’ paradise into some crowded selfie platform. There are no more secrets. No more peace and tranquility even in the remotest parts of Indonesia.
These women (and a few men) and their frivolous acts take all the meaning out of travelling. They rush to cover all the iconic sites in the shortest possible time. The main emphasis is not on their experience or some insight they have gained from visiting the site but on whether they look good in the picture – good enough to attract thousands or maybe even millions of followers. Background information on the local culture, geography or even geology can be lifted off websites and Wikipedia after the visit. These folks are not sharing their unique and personal experience in travelling. Their travel is all about “me” from the milestones to the mundane, a win-win situation for the narcissistic and voyeuristic.
We know it’s all very fake and superficial, but the hard question here is, do people read travelogues anymore? No, they admire the Instagramers’ photos and make plans to take the same photos, then share and forget about them. Years ago, a travel writer made fun of a group of tourists who rushed from the airport in Cairo to take some pictures of the pyramids before rushing back to the airport to take their connecting flight. This is very similar to what our contemporary Instagramers are doing. Been to Egypt. Seen the pyramids. Am I cool or what? And now, here’s a picture of me and my fritters.
This apparent lack of respect for local culture, history and monuments doesn’t bother the local operators at all because this style of “travel” generates rapid turnover and good money. Backpackers used to stay for weeks and months. They don’t have to wait for some insightful and eloquent travel writer to wax lyrical about the attractions in their town. To cater to this new wave of “travellers” services have grown upmarket and expensive. The Ubud I see today leaves me lost and disenchanted. In time, there will be no budget backpacking destinations left.
The old business model has been shredded and torn apart. Publications are no longer able to capture eyeballs with engaging, well-written articles. Today’s Instagramers bring better and faster money. Neither do merchants have to pay writers for advertorials. There are hordes of influencers out there with captive audiences that number in the millions.
At the end of the day, the merchants only care about sales, the influencers only care about the number of followers they can lure and locals only care about tourist numbers. I’m sure many of those who travel for the sole purpose of Instagram moments don’t even remember where they’ve been. That’s probably not an issue in this throwaway society.