Can We Not Travel Without Sharing Photos Anymore?

Can We Not Travel Without Sharing Photos Anymore?

"Instagram-worthy" — is that a deciding factor in planning your trips? Do you think it is a realistic representation of your destination?

Long gone are the days when both amateurs and professionals waited to have their travel photographs printed and shown to others. Mobile phone photography has since changed how we view travel photography and upped the ante in how instantly we can share and expand our horizons. The swathes of selfie sticks that you see raised in the air in various popular tourist destinations have also contributed to this type of behavior, with others calling tourists out for their selfish actions in favor of a better photo. Luckily, it is not just social media accounts that shame irresponsible travelers, but also local authorities which are now starting to take matters in their own hands.  

Traveling has since transformed into a more "social occasion" than an activity enjoyed and pursued in solitude, according to The Guardian. We involve everyone — those who view our stories and posts; whether we know the audience is irrelevant. Quick access to smartphone and the ability to instantly share a carefully curated image with hundreds or thousands of social media users is a reward big enough for some. 

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Leave No Trace Principle #6 – #Respect Wildlife⁣ ⁣ Our public lands might be where we go to recreate and relax on weekends and vacations, but they are also home to wild animals who live there year round. Wildlife doesn’t have the option to hide in a 73 degree house during a blizzard. They live in these places no matter the weather, the season, or the number of visitors, and so we must do our part to respect these animals.⁣ ⁣ Be mindful of the impact you have on wildlife. Remember, this is their home, and they know it better than you do.  Wildlife will likely be aware of your presence before you are aware of theirs, and they will often make a changes to their daily life to avoid human contact. In many extreme environments this can impact animal’s ability to collect enough sustenance to survive. Remember, wildlife can’t just drive down to Taco Bell for dinner like we can.⁣ ⁣ So how can we lessen our impact? Travel in small groups. Minimize excess noise. Talk quietly. Store food securely. Don’t feed wildlife or leave food scraps behind. Don’t approach wildlife once you become aware of them. Camp at least 200’ from water sources, especially in desert areas, to allow wildlife unhindered access. ⁣ ⁣ When you do see wildlife, observe respectfully from a distance. Don’t try to sneak up for a better view or picture. Think you can get on the cover of National Geographic with your iPhone picture of a bear cub if you can get just a little bit closer? Think again. If you want a quality shot invest the money in a proper camera, telephoto lens, and tripod. ⁣ ⁣ Wild animals should NEVER be tempted with food to get them to come closer as it habituates wild animals to human food and human contact.  Not only does that impact the health of the animal for numerous reasons, but it also puts you at risk in that moment and other people at risk in the future. ⁣ ⁣ Unsure if you’re too close? Follow the rule of thumb: if you can cover the entire wild animal with your thumb you’re at a safe distance. This distance is usually 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from large wildlife. If you are influencing the animal’s behavior you are already too close.⁣ ⁣ #respectwildlife #wildlife

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To explore the way social media photography and traveling impact one another, The Guardian undertook a study with two groups of participants, with six people in each, which were invited to visit Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. One group was instructed not to post anything on social media but were still allowed to take photos. The second group was given a free reign and were allowed to both take and share images. Soon as the participants departed from the zoo, they were interviewed.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that the sense of urgency and the desire to share images taken were "strongly scripted into the role of the tourist". Participants, who were not allowed to share anything on social media, expressed their disappointment in not being able to share their experiences with others immediately. One of the reasons for this was not receiving as many likes on their photos when posting them after the event, instead of during it to "cash in" on more exposure. 

Furthermore, one of the participants also felt she did not truly experience it because nobody else had "participated" by seeing it happen in real time:

I sort of feel like if we don’t share the photos it’s like a tree fell down in the forest and no one heard it, like, we’ve had this amazing experience and if I don’t share them, then no one’s going to know that we had this experience, you know, apart from us.

It appears that we don't merely use photography as a way to remember a certain moment or part in our lives but it has become a social experience, one that makes us feel like we are thoroughly engaging with the environment. The Guardian also comments that this is creating a tension where the need for digitally sharing visual content of our experiences is up against the actual individual partaking in the activity. It is a relationship that is not likely to shift anytime soon, and as such tourists' digital needs are to be addressed in order to maintain and regulate more sustainable traveling. For example, some ideas put forward by the study participants include setting up phone charging stations or encouraging people to take part in photo competitions. Conversely, unplugged experiences or activities could boost face-to-face engagement. 

How do you feel about taking photos and instantly sharing them on your trips? Do you prefer to leave your camera at home and smartphone in your pocket while enjoying your holidays? 

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15 Comments

William Nicholson's picture

I for one do not post nor use any social media for any personal reasons, on the other hand I do post photos of my work for business reasons only. Can not agree more with the statement to leave no trace and to respect the wildlife for it is their home. As a big outdoors person and camping junkie I respect mother nature and all her children and make sure to leave no trace or impact area's that are fragile. With this said, no I do not use a cell phone for photo taking, I have invested in DSLR as well a lot of glass to get that photo of the grizzly from a far and safe distance.Maybe I am just anti social media and hate when someone stops and blocks your path just to post a photo of where and what they are doing. What I do and where I go is my business and not anyone's else so that is why I never post my travels.

Maybe for some places like zoo's or other institutes that need a lot of general public money to support their cause social media helps promote or maybe people view others photos and figure they not need to go. Don't know the answer for that one but will continue my part not to interrupt wild life and mother nature. And yes I can go any where and not pull out cell phone to snap a pic to post.

Simon Patterson's picture

I have always enjoyed traveling to different places since I was very young. Photography has enhanced my appreciation of the places I visit, because it encourages me to find new and deeper perspectives of the new locations. S

So I enjoy photographing the places I travel to, because it enhances my experience whilst I'm there, as well as I like the resultant images afterwards.

I don't post the pics to social media, though. The most sharing I do is to email a few shots to family members who are actively interested in me and my life.

Anete Lusina's picture

I think that's a very healthy way of living - doing it for yourself, doing it to enjoy the experiences and taking it all in.

Jerome Brill's picture

There is always the point of posting too much. The attention can be addicting. It depends on your personality. I see it more now than ever before. This is a difficult distinction though. Are they just trying to get attention of do they actually think you should experience what you did?

I know this first hand. I go to the bwca every year to photograph. I know that some of these photos took mile and miles of canoeing and hiking to even take. The chance of someone doing the same is slim. It's such and untouch area that I can't help but to capture the beauty. I know others may never experience it. This is why I take the photos. It's also a reminder of where I have traveled to.

I think some like to make their lives look better than it really is. Does going to one place really change your life? Do you feel better after? I don't think going once will. It takes a lifetime to really change who you are or change how you think about the world.

Honestly, my world view is limited. But i've gone to the bwca enough times that I want to show what should be preserved for future generations. This is beyond getting short lived attention.

William Nicholson's picture

Jerome, I feel the pain of packing it deep into those unknown areas others will never see unless someone post a photo on some form of social media. My theory is simple. If I made the effort, put in the work, crawled through the mud and woods fighting off the bugs and danger to get to an area not many have seen and spend time documenting it, well then others can pay me to see such photos or video unless they are direct family. As you know first hand, we spend the money to get there, so pay up to share our hard work. Keep on exploring and creating memories.

Timothy Roper's picture

I know I can't! I shoot mostly film, and lug around plenty of rolls of film and bodies all over Asia. But...I have my phone too, and do post to Instagram, of things like the food I'm eating. Since I never do that at home, it's a lot of fun to do something different, and not as serious.

Angel Sanchez's picture

I am a portrait photographer and can't say enough how many models use Instagram as a means to get work. At the same time there are those that seek constant attention. Looks like they are void of it in real life so they turn it into a fantasy full of lust and stripped bikinis.

Deleted Account's picture

People still use Instasham?

T Van's picture

You kids never had to sit through the relatives slideshows of their travels.
This problem is much older than the internet.

The Photographer's picture

My ex wife was a travel agent. Weve been around rhe world. When I took pictures, I rarely shared them and only just a few. Imho though, I think a short video clip was more interesting to the family who watched. I edited it down to 10 minutes and just made highlights clip

Chris Fowler's picture

I went to Japan last November. I took "real" photos while my wife took Instagram pics. Funny result: my mother harassing me on Facebook to "Post more pictures" but I truly didn't have time on that trip to do any post production cleanup of the shots I took, so they didn't get posted (still haven't been posted in their entirety). Actually made me feel guilty/stressed about posting up content! I just think there's something about the instant gratification of social media that society is addicted to nowadays.

Next time I will probably leave my phone on Airplane-Mode for the entire trip...

Paul Scharff's picture

I don't mind seeing posts from people who travel, if it's of places they visit. What bugs me so much is posts of people who travel who only post photos of *themselves* in front of places they visit. I've never understood why people think everyone else -- most of whom they don't even know -- wants to see them, over and over and over again.

Ariaan Blok's picture

Interesting article and study. I'm glad I'm not so addicted to social media. It may help that I have missed the whole instagram hype. :-) When away on vacation somewhere, I welcome being disconnected from my social circles. I feel no need whatsoever to share what I'm seeing and doing. It also helps that I shoot almost exclusively on film these days. I find it a tremendously satisfying way to photograph, the deliberateness of it and not knowing how your shots will turn out (usually fine, sometimes bad because of some stupid error or mechanical failure... :-) ). Only after I'm home again and have developed and scanned my negatives, will I post my favourites on FB. Sort of as a way to relive those moments and share them with others (and sure, it's nice to get a few likes).

Catherine Bowlene's picture

I don't decide whether I should go places just because the shots from there would look nice in my Instagram and tbh I can't imagine who even does. Also I can't see how taking the pics ruins your chance to enjoy the travel. I like the opportunity to share your photos with your friends or family quickly but seeing about 349857349857 photos in their timelines may be tiring for them. I prefer sharing my travel pics via slideshows I create with a photo slideshow maker for PC (https://smartshow-software.com/slideshow-maker-for-pc.php), thus everyone may at once either skip all the photos or look through them as they wish. We should stop demonizing Instagram, it is just an app.