The Ethical Impact of an Instagrammable Culture

in #socialmedialast year

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Oh, Instagram. You fill us with major vacation FOMO and inspire some serious travel YOLO. But at what cost?

The rise of the lifestyle influencer

With the increased accessibility of technology and the Snapchat-it-all era that followed came forth the influencer. Lifestyle and travel influencing is now a straight-up career choice.

It’s 2019, people! You no longer need your own magazine and a 4pm timeslot on a nationally syndicated channel to make a living off skillfully shilling your tips and product recs for living your best life. (Here’s looking at you, pre-OWN Oprah.)

Social media recounts the story of the glossy, glamorous life of an influencer. But it’s not all comped hotel stays and free hair vitamins.

IG inspiration and its unintended ethical consequences

From brand new psychological disorders to the destruction of fields full of beloved flowers, the pics-or-it-didn’t-happen mentality is blamed for all sorts of new problems that didn’t exist just a few decades ago.

The good news: We are collectively aware that this is a massive problem with far-reaching ethical, social, and environmental consequences.

The bad news: It’s still a problem.

Pics or it didn't happen!

We can’t remove the horror of the 2019 Joshua Tree situation from history, but we can band together to foster an ethical and more sustainable ecosystem for influence-objective social media sharing. Here’s how:

So you’re an (aspiring) influencer! How (and why) to Instagram responsibly

Are you looking to be a more responsible purveyor of Instagrammable eye candy? There’s one notoriously neglected (but outrageously simple) rule to follow to be an ethical social media content creator.

Be respectful.

Make this maxim your mantra whenever you’re out there creating content for your audience.

Need more? Here you go:

Aim to set a better, more ethical, and sustainable example.

Treat the destinations you experience with a deference that speaks to its impermanence and importance. Be kind to the people you encounter, and for the love of all that is good, compensate them fairly.

Embrace and adapt to cultural differences

Oh so you’re used to your fancy Western-style toilet, are you, Mr/s Fancy-pants? Not so thrilled at covering up your shoulders at this sacred religious site?

Tough. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. As a traveler, you have the exceptional privilege of experiencing a totally new culture, and one that is not your own. Cherish this chance, and take every new adventure as an opportunity to foster a deeper and more meaningful sense of empathy and humility.

Take the opportunity to respect that yours is not the only culture in this world. As Kendrick Lamar said, “Sit down. Be humble.

Leave No Trace

Do you even hike, bro?

Y’all don’t live under a rock (I hope), so I’m sure you’ve heard this before: “Take nothing but pictures.” Chances are, your Aunt Janet’s neverending stream of normcore memes has featured this quote at some point.

This super-shareable saying holds deep meaning within the outdoor community, but to be clear, this is less about encouraging you to take photos than it is about not leaving a gosh-darn mess behind.

LNT absolutely has applications beyond explicitly active and outdoor activities. Leave No Trace means more than not littering (though that’s obviously a massive part of it, so remember to pick up one or more pieces of trash when you can).

Side note: stop making pointless rock piles, especially in and around bodies of water. They’re not good for the wildlife and have the potential to be seriously confusing to hikers on the lookout for a legit trail marker.

What better way to respect a place and its people than to help preserve its landmarks, both natural and handmade?

Finally, be honest

Be real with your audience. That carefully curated Instagram feed that you’re building might be reflective of reality. Or maybe it’s not. Hey, fantasy sells. But when you deliberately hide the truth from your trusting fans? Then it’s no longer an exercise in creativity. Those are just pretty little photographic lies.

Your precisely aligned and color-corrected grid might be a little (or perhaps a lot) edited. Is it honest, though? Your perfectly polished aesthetic can and should coexist with honesty — these are not mutually exclusive concepts.

I urge you, nay, I implore you to, every so often, take a break from that trending hashtag generator, and chill out with the Facetune, just a little.

Add a little humanity to your content and speak to your audience the way you’d talk to your very best friend (or frenemy, IDK what your relationships are like).

I promise you that you can absolutely sell whatever dream you’re promoting with pretty pictures and compelling captions with truth and honesty and without resorting to misleading snake oil sales tactics.

If you’re reading this, you have the extraordinary privilege of being able to create content and connect with an audience, and with that, you have the potential to authentically inspire.

Say Yes to Ethically Responsible Social Media and Content Creation

This isn’t your standard call to leave your camera at home. Photography and social media are very powerful tools with solid anthropological benefits. That we use this technology to connect with others and document our own personal histories? That’s a sweet bonus.

So go forth and create— just do it ethically, responsibly, and with an awareness of your impact.

Heads up! This post is syndicated from my personal blog, Aspire to Wander. You can read the original here: The Ethical Impact of an Instagrammable Culture. You can also give it a clap on Medium, here.

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I read an interesting article today about a social influencer who says she got a pre approval from an airline for an upgrade to business class on a long haul flight to NYK. When she showed the email at the check in desk they said it was fake and she was eventually banned from flying with them. Afterwards the airline asked her to send them the actual email she sent and received because they have no records on their email sever and the person's name on the email said he has never sent the email, she ignored them and said she would only communicate via her lawyer in future. Needless to say she didn't have a lawyer, and now she is much more famous/infamous than before ^_^

That influencer needs to take an Intro to Ethics class ASAP. 🙃


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Having actually previously been hired as an "influencer" for my Instagram following, I completely agree with this article. There are far to many that are just in it for the money sadly and will do and promote anything for a dollar, it is terrible. I've all but quit Instagram because it all feels fake.

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Lack of integrity or tact isn't limited to just influencers/social media, of course, but the entry point being what it is, the industry's saturated with people driven by self rather than any sort of external objective or mission.


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Heey what a cool post! the kind of post I'm always looking for :) it's funny because many people think being an influencer (specially the instagram focused ones) in an easy job and a glamoruous life and it's more than just that, it actually takes effort and that's part of their responsability as content creators and "public figure" lol. Just as you said here :)
upvoted, reesteemed and clapped! greetings!

Agree! As "easy" as it is to get started (🙃), there's so much more that goes into the "social media influencer" gig.

P.S. - you gave me my first Medium clap ever— thank you so much! 😅


thanks for the beer :P

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Love the insights you shared. So true. We need to do our part in preserving the beautiful places we get to visit, so that future generations will still get to enjoy them. ^_^

Totally agree, @iamraincrystal :)

Thanks for reading, and for the comments!


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