From bad to worse: The Selfie Tourist

Instagram culture has gotten out of hand and downright ruining the travel experience for everyone…


A few months ago I wrote about the chaos Instagram tourism was causing to the experience of travel. How it was changing the landscape of how we enjoyed our trips, that is IF we even could enjoy it so heavy was the crush becoming. Not only were the sheer crowds overwhelming, with damage being done, but everywhere you go there are groups of people trying to take the same thing. From quiet fields to secret streets, they are everywhere like location paparazzi, pushing and shoving and ruining the scenery.

Every year I go to the Amalfi Coast, usually in the early summer before the crowds arrive, or rather when they used to arrive as now there is less and less quieter times even on the shoulder months of the summer. If I can, I love to stay at the ethereal Le Sirenuse hotel, which has one of the most iconic and popular views of Positano. Its in every travel book, magazine, and now… Instagramer page. It is probably one of the most popular and coveted photos for the ‘gram. When I first started staying at the hotel the odd person would walk into the lobby and ask if they could go to the terrace and take a photo. The hotel always graciously welcomed them and allowed them to take a snap or two. But as Instagram popularity grew so did the amount of non guests at the hotel walking in wanting to take a photo or more importantly a selfie. Finally after guest complaints -as it really was starting to feel like a train station with the random photos with oodles of girls wanting to pose in front of the view- the hotel had no choice but to stop allowing it. Thank goodness as, as a guest, it was a constant intrusion to what is essentially a quiet space. However that still hasn’t stopped people coming in to try and get that photo…

This year on my Amalfi Coast stay, I went out and took some photos with my camera and found my usual spots heaving with people, even at quieter points. There wasn’t any space along the roads as every inch of it was filled up with people doing selfies! Even earlier in the day people were posing. And high tourist season hadn’t really started yet. There were so many people that I happily spent most of my time by the pool of the gorgeous hotel, yet I missed getting more photos in or even exploring a bit more. That’s how bad it has gotten, even if you don’t want to take photos too many people are blocking access to see or do anything while they get the Instagram shot. If that isn’t enough, tourists have begun mini photo shoots with over the top girls dressed up in flowy skirts and ruffles, complete hair and make up done so they can pose on the scenic balcony, the pretty cafe and look in deep thought in front of the pastry counter, or spinning down a colourful street, all while a friend or boyfriend photographs them. Everyone fancies themselves an “Influencer!”

What can we do about it? If you didn’t put it on Instagram it didn’t really happen is the Millennial mantra so how is it ever going to change? Well check yourself. I for my part have stopped taking photos at meals every single time. It was fun for a while and my foodie photos were favourites but I was doing too much of it. Now I only pull out my phone for a photo if the dish is exceptional, and I take the photo and put the phone away immediately after. Be selective. I know with digital it is easy to take a bunch of photos, but not everything deserves a photo op. As attractive as you are a Selfie is not needed in every instance. There is no need to take a photo of yourself at every point, especially if you are blocking a popular spot. Pick a couple of places you really like and the rest do the old fashion photo of just the view or the historic sight, or whatever. You don’t need a photo of yourself in front of the Mona Lisa when there are 500 people behind you waiting. Live in the moment. Stop and LOOK at the Mona Lisa directly and not through the camera phone. Enjoy the sunset, enjoy conversation with the people around you.¬† It might be a good idea for museums to not allow photography or for places of interests like the Pantheon in Rome for example to charge people to take photos. While as someone who loves to take photos I feel uncomfortable suggesting this, I would much rather that then not see art (I paid to see) because people crowd the front to take photos. And I wouldn’t mind to spend a fee to be able to take photos if it meant it controlled the crowds a bit. Better that, then fighting people posing and photographing themselves endlessly. While people would still try and sneak in photos on their phone, it would lessen the amount of people doing it. Limit your Instagram posting. The unwritten code is you should only be posting no more than 3 photos a day tops on the ‘gram. Usually 1 or 2 is best but no more than 3. People don’t want to have to scroll through their feed and find 10 photos by you keeping them from the rest of their interests.

Importantly remember that travel is a privilege and if we keep on this path we will lose the admission to what we have traveled to find. Either because we will be blocked from entering or because we are not acknowledging where we are because we are more consumed with popularity by showing we were there not by the stories we tell but by the endless photos of our faces. What selfie culture and Instagram travel is doing is stopping us from actually experiencing a place.

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