Social Media is an empowering tool in today’s world. It is an environment for creativity and social connections, an endless source of information and a way for many to express themselves. It provides a convenient place for people with common interests to interact and is extremely accessible on all of our mobile devices. In these ways, social media is a wonderful tool. However, like most things, social media can be misused. I find this especially true on Instagram as it is sometimes used to create an unrealistic depiction of life. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Instagram and the images I see there are a constant source of inspiration for places I want to visit and hikes I want to take. But I also recognize that many of the images aren’t being portrayed accurately. Perfect, unrealistic images fill my Instagram feed and I know that an important part of these beautiful images aren’t being shared. And this is the part I want to change. Come on people, shouldn’t we be keeping it real on Instagram? A specific category of this unrealistic image perpetrated as truth is in some of the seemingly endless number of “outdoor women” on Instagram.
The Beautiful “Outdoor Women” of Instagram
The amount of photos on Instagram of beautiful girls waking up in their tents with perfectly curled hair, wearing cute flannels while cozied up in their sleeping bags watching the sunrise is enormous and constantly growing. Their photos are usually captioned with an inspirational quote about adventure or nature. Many of these outdoor women state their goal to be inspiring others to get out and experience the outdoors. I do hope that these women are inspiring other women to get outside and experience nature who may never find the inspiration to get outside on their own. But I do worry that these kinds of posts give the rest of us unrealistic expectations for our own outdoor experiences.
From personal experience, I know that many moments in the outdoors are not glamorous or beautiful. In fact, many of my moments in the outdoors are sharply contradictory to those of the outdoor women on Instagram. I have eaten dirt flecked spilled pasta off the forest floor, spent days outdoors without showering, and worn the same dirty clothes over and over. These moments were not beautiful, enlightening, or glamourous. In fact, some of my moments outdoors are downright disgusting.
Time in Nature is NOT Always Perfect
Nonetheless, moments in the outdoors don’t need to be beautiful to be wonderful. In fact, one of the greatest parts of the outdoors is how raw everything is. This is the problem with some of the Instagram galleries I see. In some, nature is portrayed as glamorous and charming despite the fact that the nature is wonderful because it is raw and unruly. When I compare my experiences in the outdoors to some of the Instagrams I see, they seem to be very different experiences.
But in reality, I think our two experiences are probably quite similar. A photo is just a small snapshot of what is going on in a moment. The outdoor women of Instagram probably have moments that are not quite as perfect as their photos imply. I wish they would show these, or at least comment about it. Many of these photos make me wonder how far society as a whole is willing to go to create a perfect Instagram image and question the authenticity of some of the outdoor women of Instagram. All of us, but specifically those who would like to experience nature, need to recognize that the filtered images of Instagram are not real life.
Instagram is a highly selective and highly edited version of reality. My concern is that when women who are new to outdoor experiences realize that it is not as glamorous as Instagram makes it out to be, they will be discouraged from pursuing experiences in nature as a whole. As a result, they would miss out on the wonder of how nature that is both raw and beautiful; both imperfect and wonderful. In fact, to experience the true beauty of nature, you often have to do things that abandon the glamorous comforts of everyday life. This is not something to avaoid; this is part of why experiences in nature are so valuable. They require sacrifice of everyday conveniences and are rewarded with beauty beyond what you can see within your everyday comfortable life.
Keeping it Real on Instagram
So my advice for the outdoor women, myself included, that I’m talking about? Let’s do a better job of keeping it real on Instagram. Let’s show the grueling hike it took to reach the amazing vista. Let’s communicate the hours before dawn wake up we had to do to arrive at the summit before sunrise. Let’s revel in the filth we are experiencing while enjoying our amazing earth. This is part of the whole experience when spending any amount of time outside, and we should portray it if we are being truly honest.
In truth, when looking at these accounts it’s hard not to wonder if Instagram is about the outdoor experiences, or are their outdoor experiences about Instagram? It is human nature to highlight the good moments and downplay the negative. However, when we only portray the glamorous, we are creating a false reality and creating an inauthentic image. This image misses the essence of why nature is so powerful, which is in my opinion a missed opportunity.
Naomi is currently a high school junior. She is currently planning to take a gap year before college to thru hike the Appalachian Trail in 2017. Naomi manages Road Trip the World’s Instagram Page and tries her hardest to keep it real.