Illustration: Olivia Jorgensen.
It was your typical, tropical beach scene. Palm-fringed shore, scattered rocks, blissed-out swimmers bobbing about in the shallows, and a queue of twitchy travellers hoping their turn on the rope-swing would result in the perfect sunset shot for Instagram. Bemused locals looked on, except for the man taking tips for holding the swing. His grin was as big as the one the picture-takers were feigning mid-leap.
The internet had told me this was the best beach to visit in this part of Sri Lanka. A secret spot, it gushed, in words and hashtags, with the photos to match. But while it was certainly picturesque I couldn’t get my head past the length of the line at the rope-swing; by what was missing from those dreamy pictures. Was David Annand right when he claimed “Instagram is ruining travel”, writing: “A curious new breed of traveller is popping up at every great wonder of the world, spoiling the view for the rest of us…”
“We’ve turned the camera around, focusing not out, but in… turning the world’s great vistas into mere backdrops for the self”
And: “We’ve turned the camera around, focusing not out, but in…turning the world’s great vistas into mere backdrops for the self.”
I wouldn’t go as far as saying the queue ruined my trip to the beach that day, but it did make it feel more like a generic tourist experience, such as visiting the Eiffel Tower, than I’d expected. Who travels to a seemingly remote beach to be a crowd?