No secrets in the Instagram age

Growing up, we all have our secret places.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 7:08 am
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 8:10 am

Places we discover that we think no one else knows about. It might be an unexpected clearing in a wood, perfect for den-making, a mysterious derelict building to explore or an isolated spot on a beach, ideal for fires as the sun goes down.

There are magical places like this scattered throughout the world, known only to locals. To find them you have to be extremely lucky or you have to be taken there by someone in the know. You have to be initiated – and you do not just tell anyone.

Or at least that is the way things used to be. Now, when people find somewhere unusual and interesting, they increasingly take an artful shot (or suitably enigmatic selfie), tag the location, and share it on a photo sharing app like Instagram with appropriate hash tags (#wunderlust #outdoorlife #etc etc).

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And this can be a problem as some places are becoming over-run – and in rare cases ruined – by hordes of phone- wielding tourists.

Authorities as far afield as Brazil, China, Greece, and Iceland are pondering how to best prevent overcrowding and damage to monuments and natural formations. So bad is this problem on the picturesque Greek island of Santorini, famous for its striking turquoise seas and beautiful blue domes, that a strict limit on the number of daily visitors has been imposed. But this trend for perfectly shareable shots is also an opportunity for businesses and organisations which want to draw curious visitors to their locations like moths to a flame. Canny hospitality and retail owners are increasingly fitting ‘Instagram-friendly’ installations and making more of existing features. And so you can expect to see more neon signs and exposed brickwork perfect for use as the backdrop to a #perfectnight.

Marketing campaigns, like one Hotfoot created for Keswick Tourism, even puts Instagram at centre stage by encouraging visitors to share selfies as they visit their favourite places in and around their amazing town in the Lake District. And people are doing so in their thousands. It turns out these days we prefer not to keep our secret places to ourselves.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design