We’re Sick to Death of Your Instagram Photos

And judging by the royal fit your child is throwing, so is he. I can still see and hear him vividly. A screaming tantrum as he’s dragged away from playing at the riverbank with a stick. Immediately, he morphs into a ball of lead in his father’s grip. Kicking, screaming, and already crossing the tipping point to utter implosion. But you couldn’t be bothered with that because you were busy barking at everyone hiking the path, telling us that you were having your picture taken and no one else was to be in it. Not even your kid. The entire scene was ridiculous, down to the artificial pose and the plastic smile on your face when your mother finally snapped the image. Anything for your 217 followers.

Welcome to hiking the Ihlara Valley.

I’m in Cappadocia, the hot air balloon capital of Turkey. With its stunning valleys and rock formations, and wedding pic portfolios, proposal shoots, and “influencer” imagery it’s hard to resist. Who wouldn’t want this as the backdrop of their photos? Especially that iconic shot from behind, looking off into the distance. Or weirdly draping your body over the rocks. How about turning away just slightly as if in deep contemplation? Of what I’m not sure, but I can tell you it’s not about everyone else who simply wants to enjoy the scenery.

This is hardly unique to places as incredible as Cappadocia. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon from Paris to Pittsburgh, and just a few days ago at gate G11B at the Istanbul International airport. While waiting to board the flight, two women were staging pictures of themselves jumping in the air at the precise moment that the monitor changed from displaying the town name, Nevşehir, to Cappadocia. I stood in a group of already aggravated travelers and listened to the airline staff tell them to knock it off and get on the plane already. Only it was Turkish Airlines, so they were a lot nicer about it than anyone in that line would’ve been.

What’s worse is running into the tourist who holds everyone up for a picture, then confers with the photographer over each shot to make sure at least one’s on brand, and then takes several more before finally getting out of everyone’s way. When I’m witnessing this nonsense, I can’t help but wonder – Are you even enjoying what you came to experience? Because as soon as I run into you, I’m not. It’s nearly impossible for anyone to enjoy the public space that you’ve commandeered for your photo shoot.

Most of the incredible photos we see all over social media, and especially on Instagram, were taken by professional photographers at the crack of dawn for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. The women wear dazzling vintage gowns that probably cost more than is polite to mention. There’s a reason why these images are beyond stunning, and why they garner massive appeal. So when the photo darlings show up at noon with their hapless Instagram partners in tow, wearing the best of this year’s H&M collection, and are pissed when it’s not perfect or when other people are “in their photo” it’s laughable. And annoying. And it’s not hard to see why the word entitled gets trotted out and used so often. This is far from a generational jab because the culprits range in age from 15 to 70, and they’re not all women either.

Then of course, I have to think of these poor companions behind the camera. These people should be given medals to put up with this madness. I’ve witnessed nearly all of them get barked at for their inability to capture the right angles, or for screwing up the lighting, or for not being a photographic wizard. I can’t imagine how it must feel to spend thousands of dollars to travel around the world with someone in order to fail at taking pictures of them, and then be very publicly reprimanded for lacking a skill set they’ve never wanted to master in the first place. Never mind the actual hike they’re on, or the balloon ride they’re taking, or the ancient monuments they’re lucky enough to experience.

And that’s the part that gets me more than anything. I’m abroad for 92 days this summer in a lot of touristy hotspots and I’ve seen a countless number people exchanging an opportunity to bond with friends, family, and partners for aggravation over a picture not being just so. Or so caught up in getting that right shot that they lose sight of what makes the place so unique and special. No making connections with locals or other travelers. No creating significant memories, just an instagram account full of the same pictures that everyone who has been there before has taken. The same poses, the same captions, the same hash tags. That’s what makes me so tired of these photos. The vapid nature of them. Blindly reproducing and regurgitating what’s already been done to death. If likes online are weighed against what you’re willing to do to stage these shots, you’re in the negative.

When I look back on road trips and vacations I’ve taken as a child, I don’t have photos of my mom at Disneyland in a Cinderella gown, posing in a glittering pumpkin carriage. I’m not sad about this and I don’t think she is either. The photos I do have are of us in the boats at The Small World ride, and if you’ve ever endured the torture of that awful little song playing in an endless loop with someone, you’ll know that a picture together commemorating it is worth more than all the likes in the world. I remember that ride vividly. Our eyes wide with fear that it might never end. That we might be trapped in there for good. Both of us alive and awake to the experience at hand. And honestly, that might be the return to travel that we all need.