Lifestyle Travel

Do travel photos on Instagram give us an unbalanced view of the world?

It’s easy to believe in the perfection of the world, especially when we are bombarded with pristine white sand beaches all over Instagram. There are many areas of beauty in the world and I would never argue against how incredible it is, but ten years ago it was better and twenty years ago it was better still. We’re seeing the carefully edited angles but we’re missing the flip side.

I have respect for the hustle of being an influencer or a photographer, but ultimately, many of those pictures are missing an element of truth. There are incredibly beautiful places out there and they certainly exist, but they’re not as untouched as we might be led to believe.

Jetty on Thulusdhoo Island, Maldives
Jetty on Thulusdhoo Island, Maldives

This is a picture of me on a jetty on Thulusdhoo island in the Maldives. An island in the middle of the archipelago, in the Indian Ocean, miles away from land. Its beautiful but tarnished, and many people I met said the same.

There is trash everywhere, because we’re trashing the planet. We can change and we will change but I’m not convinced that we will if we continue to crop the plastic bottles of our pictures of the world. We’re all guilty, I put nice pictures on Instagram and sometimes I’ll add a footnote in my blog, but sometimes I won’t. Sometimes we want to hear these things, a lot of times we don’t.

It isn’t just Instagram, we see wildlife documentaries that show an endless blue ocean, teeming with life. Our oceans are massively depleted, they’re becoming more acidic, more polluted and more hostile to the life that dwells within. This is life with nowhere else to go, and life that we depend on for food.

When we watch the news, it strives to be a balanced argument. Perhaps that is not always the case, but that is its remit. The good, the bad and the ugly. Some publications and factual books, will tell you two sides of a story, or even the story that you didn’t really want to know, but not always. Wanting to know and needing to know are two very different things that we are all aware in our everyday lives. We need to know that the ocean is full of plastic bottles but we don’t always want to know.

Unfortunately, there is no remit for social media, as long as you haven’t posted something extremely offensive, then you’re fine. We can present our lives and the world, whatever way we want to, as that is our freedom. I enjoy this freedom but I am painfully aware that it comes without balance. For every perfect ocean scene, there is not a swirling whirlpool of polystyrene bobbing along on the sea swell to accompany it. If we did see that, we’d unfollow it immediately as it’s no fun on a Saturday night. We want to see our friends dressed up and tell them they look cute, not the reality of human-inflicted misery.

So what’s the answer? Do we have a button that allows ‘public service’ information onto our timelines for a few hours a day when we want to receive news? Then at least we have the option not to pick up our phones during that time. Facebook and Twitter do have news and while that isn’t wholly reliable, is also isn’t balanced. Especially not now we have the joys of ‘fake news’ to contend with, and people who call real news ‘fake news’.

I don’t have an answer, but I think it’s something worth addressing. Instagram does have activists so you can follow them for a daily dose of reality, albeit from their biased perspectives. You can also follow news on Instagram, but even then it’s not necessarily providing you with balance, as ongoing disasters aren’t reported on every day. Syria’s still happening, right? Boko Haram still has those girls and Venezuela and Yemen are in crisis. But that’s just the selected stories that I care about and chose to mention.

So what is the answer? Well, there isn’t one, as we choose to be as woke as we want to be. We’re fickle beings and that is reflected by how we use social media and the internet in general. We shouldn’t overwhelm ourselves, but we should be aware.

Maybe it’s just a case of taking those perfect posts with a pinch of salt, or maybe it’s about seeing for ourselves. Either way, we have to live in the world, so if we really need to know, we’ll probably be told. Ignorance can be bliss and Instagram can fuel that, if we want it to.

Originally published on my Medium page.

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