How influencers are Damaging Idyllic Places with their Use of Instagram

Places of pilgrimage for instagramers such as the Red Wall in Calpe or the bunkers of El Carmel have become the sensation of the social network. We analyze the consequences of ‘everything for the photo’ and what these images say about us.

The Campos de Lavanda de Brihuega location collects more than 36,000 photographs on Instagram in which users of the social network pose between the fields imitating the classic and usual postures of the platform: an idyllic walk, a jump, a look at infinity, a sunset kiss. The landscape invites us to dress in white, with flowing and fresh fabrics and comfortable sandals, as most of the users that we can see through the screen of our phone wear.

Brihuega, the place of lavender, is a small town of just over 2,000 inhabitants located in Guadalajara and just 85 kilometers from Madrid. Nicknamed “the Spanish province”, this little piece of La Alcarria, on which Camilo José Cela has already laid his eyes, turns purple during the month of July,

“The tourist boom occurred approximately six years ago,”  Adolfo Liras, one of the Britur Alcarria tourist informants, told S Moda ., a company that carries out guided tours of the area, «and this has brought many benefits to Brihuega, the region and the entire province of Guadalajara in general; the lavender fields have put the area on the map and this has been an economical booster”.

There are also drawbacks: “In July, the area is overcrowded. During several weekends the town runs out of services, from parking to basics such as the hotel industry. There are many fields that can be visited, although most tourists always go to it and there are traffic jams, queues and sometimes the Civil Guard has even had to cut off access, it seems like a pilgrimage. Adolfo Liras affirms that the majority of tourists tend to be respectful of the place, but there is a small percentage that is not, and that percentage continues to grow year after year.

The lavender fields of Brihuega are a hot spot on Instagram: a hyper-photographable place that communes with the aesthetics and aspirations of the platform and whose experience is no longer limited only to the visit but to the photography that accompanies that visit. Headlines like Where is the lavender field where the influencers are photographed? or photographs of personalities such as Tamara Falco posing among the flowers in a white dress, in a collaboration to promote Castilla La Mancha, attest to this.

It is not the only place in Spain that has become a hot spot: the private building baptized as La Muralla Roja in Calpe by the architect Ricardo Bofill, whose neighbors have fenced, fed up with meeting tourists taking pictures, or the bunkers of El Carmel, in Barcelona, from whose viewpoint there are the most Instagram views of the city, are some of the examples that follow in the wake of the pink wall of the Paul Smith store in Los Angeles, where tourists line up to take a snapshot, or the fake Prada store in the middle of the Texas desert, an installation by artists  Elmgreen & Dragset that has become a sensation on the platform, generating rows of cars parked haphazardly and in the middle of out of the blue for the sheer joy of taking a Beyoncé-style picture .

“Currently, we are witnessing a shift from online to real space,”  Jorge Sequera , doctor in sociology and author of the essay Gentrification: cool capitalism, tourism and control of urban space , explains to S Moda , “in other words, platforms Digital images not only represent urban or tourist experiences through a photograph, but also generate the new representation of reality in themselves”.

Jorge Sequera points to other examples of when the online has filtered into our reality. This is clearly seen in the subject of food or foodification when, suddenly, our eye gets used to Instagram coffee (foamy, with late art above, in a white cup) and that type of coffee ends up moving to your neighborhood, and the coffee shops that do not serve coffee in that way or transform the premises towards a specific aesthetic (soft aesthetic , wood, white tiles, ferns) will be disadvantaged, even disappearing. 

Returning to our topic, by getting used to a certain digital aesthetic and translating it into reality, we are constantly looking for the Instagram filter in our day to day life and that is why we look for exciting references, exciting to look at. In other words: pink buildings, purple fields or bunkers over a city.

“If you have a pink wall, you are creating an Instagram experience in the neighborhood,” says the sociologist, “and the  instagram is generating strong consequences: from the displacement of the usual population use, to the overcrowding of tourists in places that are overwhelmed, to urban proposals to close public spaces. Sequera refers with this example to what is happening in El Carmel: before the avalanche of tourists, there are proposals from the Barcelona City Council that propose closing the viewpoint, also preventing the residents of the area from enjoying the views or taking a walk if they do not pay a toll.

A recent academic article published in Urban Studies entitled  Seeing  the street through Instagram: digital platforms and the amplification of gentrification reached the same conclusions. The piece took as its object of study the Javastraat neighborhood in Amsterdam, which has become one of the city’s fashionable neighborhoods as a result of the opening of modern, cute and instagrammable shops and spaces : Our thesis is that social media representations, especially on visual and location platforms like Instagram, selectively reinforce change on the ground.”

Those hot spots or Instagram locations in neighborhoods and tourist sites end up shaping the place, and the way we inhabit and consume it, displacing those other places that are not suitable for the photo.

As the sociologist points out, the question we should ask ourselves is not so much how or why, but who are the people who take these photographs: If before there was a search for authenticity and difference, that is, finding the last place that Nobody would have stepped before you, now the prism has changed, and we are faced with the incessant repetition of the same image that a micro or macro celebrity has been able to make, such as taking a photo of yourself on the pink wall of Paul Smith or in the lavender fields.

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