Long before the days of social media, we didn’t know the identities of enigmatic #adventure types.
There was nowhere they could publicise that they hiked on weekends and swam under waterfalls and stripped naked on a cliff to feel the air in their tingly parts. Their colleague in the floor below didn’t know, their creepy neighbour didn’t know, and the random halfway across the world didn’t know either.
Everyone’s lives were, for the most part, private.
The emergence of social media platforms such as Instagram suddenly made its users acutely aware of just how boring we were. It became a breeding hub for what psychologist Leon Festinger coined the ‘social comparison theory’, where we can both self-enhance through downward social comparisons or self-harm by means of upward comparisons.
We’d scroll accounts that were perfectly curated and regularly updated with vivacious and active lifestyles. The photos were edited with the same minimalistic filters and limited to the same aspect ratio. The captions were littered with hashtags and inspirational quotes projecting a life of ease.
And we knew they were half-truths, fabricated lives exaggerating the adventurous and the dreamy. Despite this, we’d soak up the imagery and manipulate ourselves, allowing jealously and loneliness to ooze into our subconscious and ultimately destroy our self-esteem.
To combat this, we’d flick through our own albums for an appropriate #tbt and upload it to project an equally envy-inspiring social media persona, igniting what Mariella has called the ‘pleasure-loathing phenomena’. I’m guilty of this and I’m sure a lot of us nature lovers on Instagram are too.
It’s simple: our lives look better in a .jpeg with a VSCO filter.
In the context of #adventure, social media individuals and adventure groups received some backlash for sharing the places they go. Many of the pre-social-media-adventurers-turned-Nature-Hipster began complaining about once-secluded and now overcrowded havens, of little lagoons littered with trash, of secrets now spoiled.
S/he would shout: “I went there before it was Instagrammed! You’re only going there for the photo!” before adjusting their cap and perching on the edge of a cliff for a shot. And I get it, I really do. I was someone who grew up bushwalking barefoot with my parents and drinking from fresh water creeks and therefore felt protective over places that didn’t seem to be appreciated before the days of social media.
But removing the individual from the picture here, we see the outcome is mostly good. #Adventure updates ultimately make us more conscious beings, reminding us that there is an entire universe outside the little microcosm of suits and screens and gossip we inhabit.
Every single day there are lizards spending hours basking in the sun, rivers shooting water off cliffs, trees whispering in the wind. Social media reminds society that outside can be beautiful, and that nature has the power to heal our souls.
It can relax us, make us forget our worries and pride (hakuna matata) and everything else we’ll probably write in a caption later.
So what is wrong with presenting the best aspects of your life?
What is wrong with going to a place only to take a photo of it- at least you’re going outside and getting some exercise, right? Australia’s obesity rate is pretty damn high. Why do my intentions and actions matter to anyone else, especially if I am not harming anyone? If I am, they can always unfollow…
I suppose the problem here lies with the motivations of the #adventurer. I’m concerned about what this mentality breeds. When actions are stimulated by envy (one of the cardinal sins, don’t forget), envy becomes the vehicle to achieve somewhat fleeting fulfilment.
Is this a positive, healthy motivator for life? Are we raising a culture of people that are more concerned about their visual identity online than their physical existence in the world?
Upload if you want to inspire, but don’t upload for your ego.
Upload if you want to document your life and share your art, not if you want to evoke envy.
And finally, ask yourself this question before your next adventure: would you still go, would you bother, if you couldn’t take a camera with you?