Is Social Media Tourism Travel’s Biggest Problem?

Social media tourism might be travel’s not so newest problem. Read about why this practice has its downside and how you can use your platform more positively.

the downside to social media tourism

Has Social Media Changed Travel?

If one thing has changed tourism this century, it’s social media. With more user generated content, people find reviews and recommendations left and right.

It’s not just review sites, though. Travelers look to social media influencers for tourism tips, itineraries, and suggestions on where to jet off to.

Experts have swipe up functionality.

Social media tourism has become it’s own thing. We make decisions based on what’s trendy on Instagram.

But is there a downside?

The Burning Question: Is Instagram Ruining Travel?

For every respectful tourist attempting to order un cafe in French while in France, I saw six Instagram models at the Eiffel Tower.

This was after I almost got selfie-sticked at the Louvre.

Doing it for the ‘gram has officially seeped its way into travel. Overlooking your Parisian balcony, coffee in hand, as you gaze off into the distance. How candid. Meditating at the Cliffs of Moher. Zen AF. Did you photoshop the other tourists out, though?

But social media tourism is a problem that goes beyond insincere yoga postures at popular attractions. Ill informed travelers share unattainable snapshots and down-right disrespectful content. All in the name of likes.

This is clearly problematic. It doesn’t just perpetuate inauthentic travel for a photo, but it encourages practices that are dangerous for us and our planet.

5 ways social media tourism is hurting travel

5 Ways Social Media is Hurting Tourism


Iceland’s tourism officials are asking travelers to stop geotagging their Iceland photos to cease tourism for the likeness of a social media photo. We’re literally trampling our planet for Instagram.

Breaking Laws

Speaking of Iceland. It’s illegal to scale certain waterfalls and cross certain boundaries. How far are you willing to go for the shot. 

Two Australian influencers were jailed for taking illegal drone footage in Iran. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t worth it.

Promoting the Unattainable

Wonder why some destinations disappoint when you see them in person? Because photoshop is fake. We have an unrealistic perception of what something should look like. Thanks IG.


Peace signs during open cremations at a Nepali temple. Selfies in Auschwitz. Are you f**king kidding me. Some places are sacred.

A Lack of Safety

Or common sense…

A video of a traveler holding the deadly blue-ringed octopus got over 20,000 upvotes. 

Chernobyl has magically been declared “safe” since HBO’s popular miniseries. Perfect time for a naked selfie…

Saudi Arabia press trips are a thing. Influencers were magically allowed to parade around in a bikini and picnic with their boyfriends under the stars in a country that actually practices Sharia Law. Hmm.

I’m not sold that these are good ideas. But some readers are.

how to be a more 1
Looking to read more about responsible travel? Check out this post on being a mindful traveler.

And the answer isn’t to stop traveling or to punish social media influencers.

Though, I’d kind of like to.

The solution starts with creating your own experience, rather than replicating someone else’s. And continuing to use social media as a platform to generate change and promote mindful travel.

Use Social Media to Promote Responsible Travel


With locals where you’re traveling for recommendations. Ask about culture.  Whether it’s your hotel concierge or a local blogger, a personal recommendation still carries weight.

Be Helpful

Post informed content – information on avoiding scams, local spots that could use a little love, volunteer tour groups that give back.

Be Honest

Take #liveauthentic seriously. Share what you learn, not just a pretty picture.

Tulle skirts and yellow jackets don’t make you stand out. Well, yes, they do but…

Despite the popularity of social media tourism, we can do and promote better.

Be a Responsible Traveler with These Tips. Save this Post for Your Next Trip!

social media tourism


  1. October 24, 2019 / 3:50 am

    I agree wholeheartedly! Something has seriously shifted in the last few years. Whereas places were getting more crowded already with the increasing accessibility of travel, and social media certainly has made places more popular than they might have been otherwise, the way these tourists act on travel is really awful. It’s okay to be a tourist, but have respect for your other tourists and for the places you’re visiting and the people who live there. In just the last few years, the things I have seen people do have either amused me… or enraged me. In the former category, we started a count of people taking photos of their drinks or desserts in front of things on our last trip–sigh–and in four days we had at least a dozen. And that doesn’t count people lying on the ground for selfies in the middle of busy thoroughfares, wearing formal gowns to climb medieval buildings for the perfect photo above the skyline (I saw three of those), people making disrespectful or ridiculous gestures and faces in front of historical sites… Yeah.

    • Tori
      October 24, 2019 / 11:09 am

      I can’t love everything you just wrote more!! Some things are funny – sure, if you want your food to get cold to take pictures, go for it. But others are disrespectful and ridiculous. Some places are sacred and deserve more respect than your peace signs and kissy faces. I think you really articulated it well – an increase in tourism can be good, that’s not the issue. The shift in the way people act, though is where something’s gone wrong…

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