Instagram Influencer Behavior Has Got to Change—They’re Ruining Travel and Risking Lives

PHOTO: Johann Helgason / Shutterstock

Knock it off, guys.

A pair of Instagram influencers named Raquel and Miguel run an Instagram account called “explorerssaurus_” that is entirely dedicated to photos of the couple in extremely beautiful locations around the worldwhich, great. That sounds fine. However, the couple’s recent viral photo—which features them dangling out of an actual moving train in Sri Lankaon the other hand, is absolutely not fine.

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We are all on a long journey, with problems to solve, lessons to learn, but most of all, experiences to enjoy 🙌🚂 For where are you now 🏠 and where you will go ✈️, for “I’ve always known” 🙋‍♂ and “I told you so” 🙄, for “nothing is happening” 🤷‍♀ and “all has gone wrong” 😭 just go out there 🍃 and don’t wait too long ⌛… No matter what happens, make sure you always enjoy this wonderful ride called life ♥️ When was the last time you went on a trip and wher did you go? ✄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄┄ #travellingourplanet #wondeful_places #bestvacations #living_destinations #travelcouple #togetherforever #coupleshoot #srilanka #srilankatrip #wanderlove

A post shared by RAQUEL & MIGUEL (@explorerssaurus_) on

Now, sure, this photo is very well taken. However, many commenters have (rightfully) called this a reckless and unnecessary post and one that sends a dangerous message. Taking risky photos like this absolutely bananas train shot “for the ‘gram” happens all the time and sometimes the results are deadly. In 2018, three YouTubers who posted photos of themselves in dangerous locations died in Shannon Falls in British Columbia. Last month, a college student fell to his death after losing his footing at the Cliffs of Moher while taking a selfie. Also quite recently, a 25-year-old “Instagram thrill-seeker” fell to his death shortly after he Instagrammed a photo of himself hanging out of his apartment window in NYC. These aren’t the only incidents—there are many others.

Influencers endangering their own lives is sad enough, but they’re called influencers for a reason—because they have an influence on their large numbers of followers (Raquel and Miguel alone have over 249K on explorerssaurus_), who are usually young people looking to follow their dreams just as these internet-famous people are depicting through their photos.

Taking risky photos like this absolutely bananas train shot “for the ‘gram” happens all the time and sometimes the results are deadly. 

It’s no argument that celebrities can influence fans with their every move, whether it be a place they’re going, or a dress they’re wearing—it’s essentially advertising. They’re doing or wearing a certain product, and it makes people want that product for themselves–this includes experiences and travel. “Influencers” may not be traditional celebrities, but they certainly have a similar impact on people. In fact, it might be an even greater impact because they’re not traditional celebrities–they’re “just people.” Forbes writes, “The rise of social media, the dwindling popularity of TV and people’s distaste for advertising are prompting a redefinition of the word, ‘celebrity.’ Now it is the common folk who are setting the trends and driving opinions, and they are doing it on YouTube.” Based on a study by Defy Media, Variety reported that 63% of respondents between the age of 13-24 would trust a product shown to them by a YouTube influencer more than a famous actor or actress.

It’s this factor, above all the rest, that makes posting risky photos all the more dangerous when the overall message is, “I’m just like you!” because this could easily lead someone looking at the photo to think, “Hey, you know what? I could do that if I wanted!”

Another unfortunate outcome is that by even writing this, it gives the couple (and others who put themselves in harm’s way for social media) what they want: exposure. So, if you’re going to argue that although this type of behavior is dangerous, it gets you noticedyou’re correct. I am not going to argue with you about that. And perhaps it’s a moot point for me to sit here and straight up just beg you to not do this purely on moralistic grounds, but, guess what—I am going to do it anyway.

Hello! This is an open letter to Instagram influencers. Here’s the whole letter: Stop endangering your own lives, as well as those around you, to take a “daring” travel photo for the internet. It is not impressive, you don’t look worldly, and no one is benefiting from this. In fact, by posting this photo, you are also absolutely (consciously or notdoesn’t matter which!) putting other people’s lives at riskthose people who are actually on this train with you and those who see this photo and think, “Hey, maybe I should try something like that!”

It may seem like a simple photo, but it’s honestly not. It’s stunts like these that help to create a culture encouraging this dangerous behavior. No one should try anything like this. This is not what “traveling” is. Traveling is not purposely endangering yourself (or others) for a photo op.

Are you legally allowed to take a selfie wherever you damn well please? Yes, but shouldn’t there be a golden rule applied here? As in, “Don’t take a selfie when it bothers other people, and ‘bother’ is anything that includes the risk of damaging property, delaying travel time for other passengers (like, say, if the train was to have to physically stop moving to help get you back on the train because you fell off of it when you were trying to take a photo while dangling off of a moving train), or messing up anyone else’s life in any way, at all.” That’s just a rough draft, but you get the general idea.

TL;DR: Knock this stuff off, guys.