I have bad news, Instagram.
I know we’re just coming out of the holiday season, a time of merriment and hope and expectation, and I’m sorry to do this to you now, at the beginning a bright, shiny new year.
But it can’t be helped, Instagram. If it’s going to happen, it’s best that it happens now. So I’ll just come out and say it.
Instagram, I think we need to break up.
I’m sure you’re not overly surprised. It’s no secret that this relationship wasn’t going well for either of us, and I’m sure a lot of it is my fault. I’ve ignored you. I’ve complained about you. Long weeks have passed without a post. I haven’t really properly utilized Stories. I don’t “like” things anymore. I don’t follow new people. I don’t engage like I probably should if I were looking to really grow an audience.
But I never went into this looking to be an influencer, Instagram. My goals were to create another platform to reach new people, share some of my favorite travel photos, and most importantly point people to my newest blog posts. I saw it as a way to grow traffic to my website and gain legitimacy in the travel space.
And you haven’t exactly been there for me either, Instagram. No matter how many photos I posted, how much research I did into hashtags and captions, how many calls to action, emoji, cute questions, and filters I used, the traffic didn’t come. People saw, double-tapped (or more often didn’t), and kept scrolling.
In fact, Instagram, you only gave me 0.097% of my total web traffic in 2021. That’s a lot of work for a very little payout.
And maybe I never gave you a fair shake, Instagram. Like I said, I didn’t post a lot. But I also didn’t play your little games: spending a lot of time making comments and liking things to get exposure, trading likes for likes, unfollowing people once they liked me to keep my ratios in check, that sort of thing.
It all felt disingenuous, Instagram, and I didn’t like it.
But honestly, Instagram, more than my frustration with you as a business tool, my biggest concern is the conviction I’ve been feeling around your impact on the travel industry.
I’ll be blunt: it’s not looking good, Instagram.
I know what you’re going to say: you’ve opened up the world to people in a whole new way. You provide a platform to share images that celebrate the incredible beauty to be found in this world and help inspire people to get out there and see it.
And that’s all true, Instagram. I will certainly give you that.
But you’ve also created unrealistic standards, Instagram. You’ve made people feel like their travel isn’t good enough if they don’t see certain places, get a certain shot, or get enough likes on the image they post afterward.
You’ve pressured people to travel for the photo, not the experience. And it’s having a real impact, Instagram. Places like the Isle of Skye in Scotland, for example, are seeing a significant increase in tourists to just a few locations made famous by the internet. People come to the island to see the most iconic sights from the ‘gram, take their photos, and then leave. It’s damaging landscapes and infrastructure, causing massive traffic jams, and frustrating locals. Plus, these visitors are often so blinded by their quest to see and shoot what they saw online that they miss out on a lot of what makes the Isle of Skye so spectacular and special in the first place.
And the Isle of Skye isn’t the only place, Instagram.
People wait hours in line for a photo at San Diego’s Potato Chip Rock or Bali’s Stairway to Heaven or the Trolltunga cliff in Norway or any number of other iconic places. Destinations like Venice and Barcelona and Machu Picchu and Amsterdam are suffering greatly under the weight of overtourism largely fueled by what people have seen online.
And I won’t even start in on how many of the images that people are chasing are heavily manipulated or completely faked.
Don’t get me wrong, Instagram; I’m not saying that we shouldn’t want to see the iconic sights and that we shouldn’t want to take pictures of or with them. But traveling specifically to see internet-famous spots at the expense of other worthy places, feeling like you’ve missed out if you don’t, or feeling like you had less of a vacation if your photos and selfies don’t look like what’s on social media takes so much of the fun and meaning out of travel. Visit the famous places, yes, but remember that the real magic is in meeting local people, exploring off the beaten path, and disconnecting from life back home to immerse yourself in the experience.
So you see my conflict, Instagram. By keeping up our relationship, I might be unintentionally contributing to this social media-centric approach to travel that is causing so much harm and with which I so strongly disagree.
I can’t feel these convictions and continue to contribute to them.
So… this is it.
I’m parting ways with you, Instagram.
And look… I’m not saying it’s forever. Think of it as more of a break. (Yes, I know that didn’t work out well for Ross and Rachel, but maybe we’re different, Instagram?) Maybe after taking some time apart we’ll find a new love for each other. Maybe I’ll be excited to post, and you’ll be excited to share my content. Maybe we’ll all start to discover a world outside our phones and realize that the personal impact of good travel – whatever that looks like – is worth so much more than the temporary high of an Instagram like.
So until that time… goodbye Instagram. I hope you find your way.
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