Instagram Is The New Social Currency For Travellers


Instagram Is The New Social Currency For Travellers

Left: @muradosmann.
Right: @saltinourhair.

Travellers used to judge each other by their backpacks (the more battered the better), the most creative number of ways they could wear their undies (before needing to wash them) and their ability to turn hostel leftovers into a Michelin star meal. Now though, there is a new way of discerning each other (and of staying in touch): Instagram.

Call me old, but I just realised something. Instagram is the new social currency for travellers. Before you jump in a time-machine back to 2010 and slap me around the face with an iPhone 4, hear me out.

Not only are bloggers and influencers using social media to go viral (whether that’s by sharing the perceived ‘dark side’ of a destination, creating hashtags like ‘followmetoo’ or by sharing hilarious ‘Instagram vs. reality videos), but the technology is changing how garden variety travellers like you or I interact too.

I recently spent four nights in a hostel in Hawaii. While I was there, I saw no-one exchange numbers, emails or even WhatsApp details – everyone exchanged Instagram handles. Though I first thought this was a bit intimate, it makes sense. There are no country codes to contend with, no plus symbols; no data required.

It also gives you a bit of an insight into what someone is like. Before making plans to go swim with Tiger sharks, for instance, you might like to know exactly how cliché the caption the photo you are liable to be tagged in will be in the event that you get munched…

WATCH: Tourists take sunset photos in Hawaii

People’s profiles can also surprise you. I met a Brazilian guy in Hawaii who, because he chose not to surf the first day I was there (which was fairly big), I assumed wasn’t that good. After patronisingly suggesting a few small wave locations he might like to try the following day, I checked his Instagram and discovered he was a better surfer than me. Oops.

Then there’s the self-promotion side of things. Like having an Instagram page when dating is a handy way to let someone see that you are a real (quirky! Fun!) person to hang out with, when travelling it’s kind of the same. If I had a dollar for every time I saw someone in Hawaii posing, Influencers In The Wild style, for a photo on the shoreline, I’d have about 10 dollars (in four days). No wonder there are so many snarky articles out there talking about cliché travel photos tourists need to stop taking

Adding fellow travellers on Instagram is also an easy way to keep in touch without putting in much effort. A like here and a comment there is much easier than full-blown messages (or god forbid picking up a pen). On top of that, it’s a bit of a social currency as well. A subtle way to reinforce to your friends how cool and worldly and friend-making you are, while they do something stupid like pay off a mortgage.

There are a couple of problems with Instagram replacing mobile number-taking and pen palling, however. The main one is that, though some people you meet on your travels will remain friends for life, others will not. They might also post things that are irrelevant to you, clogging up your feed.

It feels a bit rude to just unfollow someone though, so you will probably just suck it up and scroll on. But there you have it: welcome to 2022. A world where Instagram is a social currency for travellers. Maybe Black Mirror had it right all along. Watch this (digital) space…

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