Despite being around for only a little over ten years, platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become an integral part of our lives, developing a distinct ‘social media culture’ and in its wake providing us with a few clichés, such as travel.
While every era has had its share of enthusiastic travellers, no other has transformed travel into an aspirational lifestyle as the Instagram era has. Add to the aspirations the peer pressure to make life seem 'Instaworthy', and we have the bizarre practice of Fakeation or fake vacation where people morph their pictures over exotic backgrounds to make it look like vacation pictures.
In fact, a 2019 NY Post report talked about a company, ‘Fake a Vacation’, which thrived on helping people, especially influencers who seek more ‘followers’, to look as if they are on a fancy getaway every now and then. From famous YouTube channels such as Yes Theory and Buzzfeed have actually taken up the challenge in which they fool their followers into believing that they were out holidaying. Then, there are even videos that show hacks to help people to take fake pictures. What’s more, most of them even succeed in fooling their followers. So what about travelling makes this generation as obsessed with it as going to the extent of taking extreme measures to make it happen or even fake it if it is not possible?
Rituparna Chakraborty, a working professional and a travel enthusiast who loves putting her getaway pictures on social media, says, “There have always been a large number of people who have enjoyed travelling and clicking pictures. And at the end of the day, it’s all about attention,” she tells us.
And with the easy access to technology, including good phones and good editing apps, she thinks it is only natural for people to want to project that side of life on social media.
“For me, it is #trending and not a cliché yet,” adds Rituparna.
Quite unlike Rituparna, however, is Yatharth Chauhan, an independent content creator, who claims to be ‘done’ with the trend. “The whole concept of putting one's travel online outweighs the idea of travel itself. We'll soon reach a point where travel bloggers will outnumber the travel destinations itself and that will be a sad and heart-breaking recession to deal with.”
Then pointing to pop-culture in playing a role in this trend, Yatharth says, “Two Bollywood films, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Zindagi Na Milegi Na Dobara (ZMND), should be especially mentioned in this regard. Of course, there are people who are genuinely in love with travelling and photography, but Ranbir Kapoor’s character in the film Bunny, singing ‘Ilahi’ as he travels across the world with his camera became the new definition of cool.” Yatharth also believes that ZNMD and other such films have also been very successful in propagating the idea that one absolutely needs to be on a journey to ‘find’ themselves. “Of course, there is nothing wrong about people who connect with that, but there are too many who do it to keep up appearances on social media,” he adds.
Apart from peer pressure and pop culture, however, does this trend say anything about this generation?
Sandra Monteiro, a health psychologist, explains, “Creating a wishful life online through travelling may be understood as compensatory of the behaviour for the mundane routine life that does not come with the package of thrill and popularity. Then comes the feeling of entitlement, which may be interpreted more as the desire of seeming different from the rest, rather than showing themselves as better off than others. Again, self-indulgence or a petty form of narcissism is fostered by the self-concept that is built based on the appreciations gathered of the grand social life on social media.”
Sandra then talks about the extremes of this trend, which leads people to fake a vacation online. “However negative, it would perhaps be safe to say that it often protects the individual from poor mental health spirals of sadness, loneliness and self-pity,” she says.
So should we encourage such forged pleasure? “Of course not, because soon it will turn into a case of white water instead of milk. A social platform needs to become a better social space,” Sandra asserts.