Instagram Is Ruining our Holidays
February 25, 2019
By IVY WADE
If you go on vacation and don’t post pictures online, did it even happen? The more we scroll down our feeds, the more it seems holidays are now sponsored by Instagram and Facebook. They record our beach days and hiking trips, festivals and gap years. They need us and we need them. Our fun and adventurous lifestyle does not exist unless someone is able to observe it.
You may go ahead and look at my social media accounts if my prodding is bothersome; I am as guilty as everyone else. I love traveling, as most people do. I also love to take photos, as most people do. Inevitably this leads to photos and excursions shared on social media. It is natural to want to share our life, joys, and passions, but after a year of sporadic traveling and accompanying hashtags, I have realized that this particular addiction is ruining our collective holidays.
This past year, as I anxiously waited to hear back from grad schools and wanted to further avoid the call of adult responsibilities, I took several trips during work holidays. Working at a school meant I was lucky enough to get several weeks off around the year. On some trips, I didn’t take as many photos and was more enraptured by exploring this hike or that and reuniting with friends. On other occasions, the hunt for the perfect picture was more of a central focus and my irritation grew with every pose and scavenge for the perfect background graffiti.
On one such trip, a friend eagerly planned our day around popular photo spots. I was not particularly excited for this, but generally was happy to go along for the ride and just see new places. The installations and views were beautiful but as the day went on I couldn’t help but notice that we were creating false moments, constructing our memories and polishing them for the viewers of our lives.
“I realized that we were manufacturing moments in order to create images that would ‘sell’ on social media”
My discomfort reached its boiling point as my friend had me traipse miles across the city looking for a particularly insta-famous wall. Upon arriving at our destination I was shocked to find the wall was simply a solid colored stucco with no artwork or embellishments to distinguish it in any way. I tried to block the steam coming out of my ears out of love for my friend, but my patience was running thin as a single photo request turned into an hour-long ordeal.
A truck was unloading in front of the wall – I assumed we would leave and go about our business, but my friend insisted we stay and wait for it to leave. I obliged because I am generally an avoider of conflict and didn’t want to spoil our otherwise inspiring trip with an argument. Ten minutes go by. Thirty minutes. My friend goes inside a shop to buy an ice cream for her photo. This moment struck me the most, as she didn’t necessarily want it or even like it, instead only choosing it to create this photo.
Forty-five minutes or so pass and finally the truck moves. I am straight-faced and somber trying to discard my annoyance as we set about doing the photo shoot. I took hundreds of frames, moving this way or that, trying to get the perfect image. Something was always wrong and I would move around and around our imagined set to achieve the desired effect.
By the time our glamour session was over, I felt a strange level of exhaustion. I realized that we were manufacturing moments in order to create images that would ‘sell’ on social media. I felt sad and bored. I didn’t want the rest of my trip to be this way.
The vacation did get better and moments like these faded, but it provided a moment of clarity about my personal relationship with social media. It is true what they say: the carefully constructed imagery of someone’s social media is almost always a highlight reel and you don’t see the hundreds of failed frames, or the melted, unwanted ice cream sandwich in the dumpster. By participating in these constructions, it is inevitable that we are only aiding unhealthy perceptions of life and its expectations.
I am not saying to ditch social media or stop taking photos during vacation. These things have a purpose and we will always partake in them. I love taking beautiful landscape photos and sharing them with others, even an unabashed selfie from time to time. That won’t stop.
However, it is wise to be cautious with how we construct our images and memories. Creating false moments robs us of our true pleasures and perpetuates the distortion of reality and self-image that social media sites are notorious for. We all, myself included, can be more aware of how much time posing is taking up on our vacation and work on enjoying authentic moments without the sway of social media. More vacation and less screen time is the cure for this collective addiction. I challenge all of us on our next holiday to spend a day away from our phones, savoring the beautiful moments in their purity without taking a single frame. This is a different kind of freedom, one where we hit pause on life’s expectations and truly drink in this beautiful world without likes, comments, or upvotes skewing our vision.
Ivy Wade is a Master’s Student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Amsterdammer.