A few weeks back, Indian travel blogger couple, Vishnu Viswanath and Meenakshi Moorthy fell to their deaths in the Yosemite National Park in California. Reports said that it was in an attempt to take a selfie that caused their deaths.
This is not the only report.
Instagram and its tone of content has created an environment where travel photographers feel no problem going to impossible lengths in order to to create content. This is why you’ll notice that the videos of people taking dip in ice cold Zanskar River during Chadar Trek or a bunch of kids running over walls of Amer Fort get more popular than random clicks and informative content.
Instagram has ruined traveling, like it has ruined eating. Cup of tea overlooking a mountain or a valley, is how camping is perceived. A long distance click from the suicide point of Kinnaur has become a mandatory part of everybody’s itinerary, so much that now there are long lines just for one photo.
When an Instagrammer with 30k followers talks about how travel loan from a bank helped her plan a trip to Europe and presents it in such a way that makes other consider going to those lengths too because someone they idolize has done it already.
Recently, I told a photographer that their pics are dangerous and anyone can fall to death trying to copy it. Their reply was that they are Instagram experts and know how to do it. Know what? How to put their life in danger for the sake of a few likes? All is fun and games until someone falls and breaks a few bones.
Zanskar River freezes in winter season and temperature goes down to -30 degree. People take dips, record their videos and upload them on social media hoping that their stunt will go viral. No one wonders that this is not healthy, environment friendly and can be a cause of death if the stunt goes wrong. No one accuses travel companies for being irresponsible and instead, more people are now going on that trek because they want similar videos.
This year in January, I almost burned myself trying to document a fire dancing ritual. In an attempt to click a larger than life photo, a huge chunk of fire fell right next to me.
A pic from Varanasi went viral recently where the photographer clicked a burning pyre with the dead person’s legs clearly in the shot. It is not only insensitive but in the future, it will also prompt others to get similar shots.
Recently, the platform has seen an increase in the number of GoPro shots of a person sitting on a train’s door. The portrait of a man (or a woman) sitting still as the world goes by looks very powerful. But think of a missed step and the causality that will happen in moments.
The photos of mountains are always supposed to have clouds, a little fog and an impressive sunset. Any of the factors missing means that their trip was incomplete. I saw this happening at Hampta Pass trek where the sunset stayed hidden due to insane amount of fog. A lot of people left back to the base because they perfect shot didn’t come alive.
Last year, I saw a fellow trekker falling and injuring himself after a failed attempt to click Valley of Flowers from a height to show the whole area.
Instagram creates unrealistic travel expectations. Photographers over edit their photos and remove unwanted objects from their pics to make them look more than real. Recently at Hornbill festival, it was really common to hear backpackers talk about how a certain instagrammer got shots with almost nothing in background while their shots end up having a speaker or a tree or a group of people enjoying the act. Their expectation of the festival had already reached a different level days or may be weeks in advance. So when they got to the venue and found a chance to click the portraits by themselves, they ended up being disappointed.
Thanks to one app, the idea of travelling has become predictable. People travel to Dawki to click a boat floating over the transparent river, visit Spiti to get the shot of Key Monastery from a distance, when they go to Goa, their bottle of beer is always pointed towards the sunset, a picture taken from a certain Mcleodganj Café is how the whole idea of travelling is supposed to be. No one looks forward to expecting the unexpected because the mental projection is already fixed to one reality and one reality only and when it doesn’t happen in the way they imagined or saw on Instagram, they end up being disappointed.
Disclaimer 1 – I don’t intend to blame Instagram in this post but the community that has set unrealistic goals for travel photography
Disclaimer 2 – The photos that I have used from the respective profiles, I hope it doesn’t offend them
Disclaimer 3 – At times, I have been responsible for clicking similar shots taken here in this pic so I am not a saint compared to others