long time, no blog! I've been really busy recently and so I haven't found much time to write any new posts, but now that I am on my summer holiday break from school, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to fill you in with everything that has happened!
I've decided that I am going to be posting more travel blogs rather than my usual content (...because I went on holiday...) Now that I will *hopefully* be posting a blog post at least once a month, this new found love and enthusiasm for blogging again has really helped me change my mindset and start writing! I hope you all will still enjoy reading my posts!
Anyway, I am sure you were intrigued by the title of this post...
Instagram vs reality has become a popular caption for Instagram posts as bloggers in particular have started sharing their own experiences of travelling with their readers and followers online.
In July I went on holiday to Greece with my family! I had never been to Greece before and I found that the trip was not only a rejuvenating break from going on social media as frequently as I usually do, but that it also made me understand so much more about the power and influence that social media has over us.
Some of the photos that we see come up on our Instagram home page or explore page are truly mesmerising and beautiful, but they have been edited and changed to look like that. The problem is, we see all these indescribably tropical or luxurious places online and want to go there. Not even because we are that interested in the culture of the country or of exploring these renowned cities, but purely because we want to have said 'we've been there' or 'we've seen that.'
Greece is one of those places that is beyond beautiful, and portrayed through our socials as a magical country with its wonderful landscapes, historical monuments, extraordinary islands and of course the unforgettable sunsets. It is beautiful and I am pleased I went but I was surprised by how much power the internet has over people, especially through social media when it came to the appearance of the places I visited. The influence and control that some unrealistic and highly edited or photoshopped images have over people can become shocking. For example when tourists in Rome fight over the best selfie spot at the Trevi fountain or when a young couple are killed after taking a selfie on a cliff and tragically end up falling off it. Would you almost die just to get a photo for the 'gram?' And would you want to follow the 'trends' of famous influencers? So how do we want to live?
Do we want to follow the crowd or do we want to lead?
Today we all follow 'trends', well at least bloggers do... (small bloggers) I see these photos from some prominent bloggers that I follow and I instantly think 'wow. I would like to go there.' But do I really want to go there? To that beautiful beach which looks desolate and secluded, yet also luxurious and tropical. Because the photo which they post makes them look like they are the only person there... Were they the only person there? I guess I'll never know. That photo may have been edited, photoshopped or the blogger may have woken up at 4 am in the morning to get that shot. It seems that if I decided that I wanted to get the 'perfect' picture on that beach, it would be highly unlikely that I would, because it would either be extremely busy or completely different to the photo that that instagrammer took after they edited it.
So why is it that we all fall into the trap of wanting to go to these places that are represented to us through fake and unrealistic pictures?
It seems that everywhere now there is excessive tourism and that we are destroying our planet through pollution, litter and other means. Our most historical capitals or idyllic islands are falling into disrepair and ruin because too many people are visiting each year. I wanted to write this blog because I am transfixed by the places I see on some people's social media accounts. I look at their posts in comparison to mine and wonder how they could ever get such beautiful shots of these 'hidden paradises.'
Each year 25 million people visit Greece, this is great! I love Greece and because it is such a wonderful country it makes me pleased that so many people get to experience the beauty of the islands and natural wonders it has to offer. It also pleases me to think that the money generated from tourism can be used to build Greece's infrastructure and to drive its economy. I am not saying that 'excessive tourism' is only Greece's problem because it is not.
Countries across the world have seen a rise in tourism that had not been predicted and it seems that it is becoming increasingly challenging to visit our favourite cities and places.
Some of those affected include Italy and China. There are over 4 million visitors alone on the Great Wall of China in a year. This colossal and impressive wall which carries a significant weight of history along with its size is being damaged with the numbers of tourists it is receiving. It is completely packed with people and pictures on the internet reinforce the fact that too many tourists are visiting it, due to the sheer damage that has occurred to the wall. But what about Italy? As I mentioned before, places such as Rome and Venice have become so over-populated that tourists fight over selfie spots and clamber onto bridges to get the perfect shots, some even putting their own lives at risk.
You may be reading this blog, being a blogger yourself, and believe that all of my points and opinions are exaggerated, believing that 'everywhere is like this now.' As technology expands and advances, it becomes inevitable that we will want to travel to sensational places ourselves and experience these wonders through our own eyes rather than just looking at a screen. So that we can take our own photos to share with our followers, rather than looking at those on our people's accounts. You may even think that the reason for 'extreme tourism' becomes acceptable or justified when people remember that the human race and the overall worldwide population is continuing to grow as life expectancies increase and birth rates in developing countries will increase too.
So surely it makes sense that these places are becoming over-populated and destroyed by tourists and that this is a global pattern across the world in different countries?
And yes that is true, 30 years ago Venice would have been quiet and even Santorini would have been empty, but excessive tourism being a global pattern can't solely be the reason. Some mystifyingly exotic or wonderful photo spots are not the usual 'tourist hubs' and that is not because their scenery or views are not as spectacular. But it is because in modern society there are more people who are wealthy and there are millions of people on Instagram and over 1 billion people on Facebook.
When people see what they like, such as a photo of a waterfall in Indonesia or a blue domed church in Santorini, they will want to go there so they can witness the views themselves. It becomes upsetting and unnecessary when even locals who live in the area cannot go to parts of their town or city because it is too busy at certain times of the year and 'should be avoided at all costs.' On arrival in Santorini, a man who lived there told my family and I that there can be up to 60,000 people in some parts of the island at mid-day and this is due to the fact that cruise ships bring in thousands of people for a few hours. And despite the fact I thought Santorini would be 'inaccessible' and difficult to reach due to its location, I soon realised that a lot of people fly into the island and that the airport flies internationally. So what about the carbon footprint? Once I had been to Santorini and experienced the litter and damaged buildings in Fira, as well as the busy streets of Oia, I realised that Santorini did resonate with 'extreme tourism' and yet no blogger ever explains this or shows this on their page.
Overall, Santorini gets 2 million visitors a year. I was shocked when I visited Oia, the most popular town on the island as it seemed that half the world was there taking photos of the blue domed churches and that tourists were even roped off from going closer due to the damage and disrepair on the cliff, as well as for safety reasons. My photos of Oia are completely different to those of instagrammers, I tried to get different shots and to not 'follow the crowd.' I may not get as many likes as I may have got for the pictures of the churches if I had been closer but that will not stop me from sharing them.
We need to stop succumbing to social media and influencers by seeing a post and believing that it is real, because it is most likely not all that realistic.Additionally, as tourists we need to be more respectful of our planet, we need to remember to not ruin or destroy these prominent sites and instead to enjoy them.
Finally, if you are like me and don't want to be visiting a tourist-packed island or city next summer, then remember you don't need to follow the crowd or the ' most popularly visited places of 2019' become your own leader - go research and I am certain you will be able to find an Instagram-worthy location which will not underwhelm or disappoint you :)
Thank you for reading this post! I hope you liked it, if you did please share it below or comment so I can read about your own views! Make sure to follow me on my instagram @bethlucyblogs if you would like to get in touch or stay updated with my next blog posts which are individual travel blogs on each of the places I visited in Greece. Here is a picture of the damage and disrepair I saw in Santorini.
(I also wanted to make sure you understand that I am not saying you most definitely should not visit these places which are becoming overpopulated. I still enjoyed Santorini and loved my time there despite the crowds of people. I just want tourists and bloggers to be mindful of the impact they have on our planet and to remember that social media is much more significant in our every day lives than we realise.)