Instagram has birthed a clichéd "authentic" visual style all its own

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The Guardian recently published an astonishingly predictable rant about Instagram from Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett. The young fogey “oh, social media is ruining the world” tone of this article is almost unbearable. Dig through it, though, and there’s some potentially interesting observations about the cultural impact of Instagram on travel.

Consider the train I took last week from the mountain village of Ella to Sri Lanka’s cultural capital of Kandy. Widely regarded to be one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world, it traverses verdant mountain passes, waterfalls, and tea plantations. But many of the passengers under 35 were interested only in obtaining the same photograph – lifted right from Instagram – of themselves hanging barefoot out of the open doors of the train, with significant risk to life and limb. Meanwhile, in contrast, an older couple sitting in our carriage wondered aloud what on earth the young people were playing at and spent the journey watching the scenery go by through the window.

It reminds me of this moment from Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

Everyone is being unique, and amazing and spiritual *in exactly the same way*. As creatures, we seek the affirmation of the familiar far more than we are prepared to accept sometimes.

Which, of course, brings us neatly onto this video (found via PetaPixel:

Here, I think, is an unexpected side-effect of influencer culture – the emergence of a staid, “inspirational” visual style. Do you follow the path of familiarity or do you try to create something new and unique to yourself. For all the lip service given to authenticity on social media, I’d argue there was very little of it here.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.