The photo-sharing app may be an awesome way to inspire your next trip – but here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t visit that popular Instagram destination.
If there’s one brilliant thing about Instagram that sets it apart from other social networks, it’s that it actively encourages users to get away from the screen, go out, and visit some of the world’s most gorgeous destinations.
But are we visiting these places for the sake of visiting them – or is the photo that comes with it the whole point of the trip?
Currently, Instagram is re-launching its iOS and Android apps with a built-in ‘Search and Explore’ feature where, with a combination of geotagging, hashtags and subject matter, finding that popular Instagram destination is easier than ever.
The idea is that Instagram will become so much more than just a photo-sharing platform: it’ll become a travel guide, a newsfeed, a place for sharing creativity and ideas.
I’m just as guilty of hashtagging my photos with ‘#wanderlust’ as the next person – once artistically challenged, I’m now able to curate professional-looking shots with the tap of a finger.
And I’m not the only one. Instagram has turned every smartphone owner into a photographer, and with the accessibility of Instagram’s photo-mapping, getting shots at beautiful, once secretive locations is often the point of weekend day trips.
Most recently, the focus of such an Instagram destination trend has been the ‘Figure 8 Pools’- naturally formed pools embedded into a rock platform in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, Australia.
Scrolling through the hashtag ‘#Sydney’, I started to notice the blue-green, curvy-shaped pools pop up more and more, often with some bikini-clad girl floating nonchalantly in the middle.
Then, I saw an article from a Sydney-based blogger pop up on my Facebook news feed with step-by-step, blow-by-blow instructions on how any inner-city Joe and his iPhone 6 could get to the elusive Figure 8 Pools.
Having grown up just south of the Royal National Park, I’d been on enough multi-night hikes and driving day trips to know that the terrain is harsh, dangerous and quite unforgiving. But still, this blogger (who, by the way, dislocated their shoulder while hiking back from their Instagram-inspired adventure – yes, seriously) was encouraging people to go out there.
This won’t end well – I told myself – and just one short week later my incredible (read: obvious) prediction came true. Enter the Freak Wave:
What you can see in the above video are hundreds of under-prepared, Go-Pro wielding Instagrammers getting washed across an extremely oyster-covered rock platform. There were scratches, broken bones and even a rescue helicopter; but it was worth if for the ones who made it home unscathed to hashtag their photos with “#figure8pools”.
It’s not the first time the Royal National Park has been the scene of an Instagram destination craze. No more than a few months earlier was the National Parks and Wildlife Service was forced to cordon off a huge, white limestone rock, jutting precariously some 25 metres above the ocean below, because people were taking stupid photos such as this one:
In 2014, a French student fell to his death from Wedding Cake Rock, as it’s known, when part of the edge crumbled beneath him. In fact, the whole thing is predicted to fall off into the sea within the next decade.
But still, even after giant fences and warning signs were erected, people continued to risk their lives to get that ultimate shot they could then filter with ‘Valencia’.
Back in November I was watching the news – in Spain – when I saw vision of a helicopter winching two men in their early 20s from a ledge just below Wedding Cake Rock where they’d fallen.
Turns out crazy, life-risking Instagram destinations are common worldwide.
In September last year, an Australian student tragically fell to her death while taking a photo at Norway’s famous Trolltunga, which sits some 700 metres above a fjord.
Norway is a hot location for photograph-related deaths; it’s estimated that several people lose their lives each year by falling off of the country’s spectacular cliffs.
There’s also Devil’s Pool, on the edge of Zambia’s Victoria Falls; a slippery rockpool balanced on the edge of a 300-foot drop. Each year, several tourists are washed off the edge to their deaths.
But it’s not just the danger factor that makes Instagram-inspired adventures so painful – it’s authenticity.
Back in September I read an article from world traveller and all-round mind-speaking spirit animal Liz Carlsson, of Young Adventuress, about painstakingly constructed Instagram shots detracting from real experience.
It was about the same time Socality Barbie was throwing all our embarrassing #LiveAuthentic hashtags back in our faces. Not long after, the worldwide drama surrounding 19-year-old Essena O’Neill began, with the famous Instagrammer calling out the photography app’s all round culture of fake-ness.
Drove to the beach for the day to relax and Instagram. So blessed to have good cellphone service all the way out here. #blessed #vsco #vscocam #socality #liveauthentic #livefolk #kinfolk #visualcoop #finditliveit #getoutside #letsgosomewhere #exploremore #explore #adventure #lifeofadventure #pnw #pacificnorthwest #thatpnwlife #northwestisbest #thegreatpnw #greatnorthcollective #pdx #communityfirst #oregon #upperleftusa #peoplescreatives #wildernessculture
Una foto publicada por Socality Barbie (@socalitybarbie) el
Yeah, yeah – we chorused – that only applies to people like Essena, who, with over 500 thousand followers on Instagram was paid large amounts to upload sponsored photos. Us regular, earthly beings photograph our lunches, nights out with friends and the occasional travel pic with ‘#wishyouwerehere’.
But what, exactly, is real about hiking three hours in the Australian bush in the height of summer, to scramble out over some jagged rock platform and float for two seconds in a symmetrically formed pool – just to upload a photo to Instagram (that carefully cuts out the hundreds of others waiting in line to do the exact same thing)?
Visit a place because it interests you. Visit a place because you can experience something there you might not be able to at home. Visit a place that’s beautiful; but collect photos as an afterthought – not as the entire point of the trip.
5 places where people risk their lives for Instagram
The Grand Canyon, USA
More than 700 people have died in the Grand Canyon since records began – more and more, they’ve fallen while posing for a photo.
The tiny, five-metre cubic square rock is wedged above a 1000-metre abyss, and people often line up for hours at a time to get their photo taken on top.
North Head, Manly, Australia
Sydney seems to be the capital of Instagram trends – in the northern suburb of Manly, daredevils have photographed themselves ‘slacklining’ between cliffs, high above jagged rocks below.
Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain
During last year’s ‘San Fermines’, a young Spaniard was gored to death while trying to take a selfie during the famously dangerous Running of the Bulls.
Triana, Seville, Spain
It looks quite tranquil, but this exact spot in my local neighbourhood of Triana, Seville, was where a Polish woman fell to her death while trying to take a selfie with the iconic bridge in the background.
Check out this map from Time Magazine of the most Instagrammed places in the USA by state.