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An Instagram Q&A: Geotagging, exploring Scotland and the pursuit of likes

Two weeks ago, for the first time, I used the question sticker on Instagram Stories. I’d put off jumping on that social media bandwagon in the past because honestly, as a bit of an introvert, I appreciate having a curtain between my online and offline lives. Opening up in a Q&A seemed a bit too scary! But since starting my #HashtagScotland project, I thought it might be a good way to engage more people in conversation around the topic. And it was.

Here are the questions I was asked, and the answers I gave. I’ll definitely be doing this again at some point in the future, so if you want to talk all things social media, Scotland, slow travel and digital minimalism you know where to find me.

Other than not geotagging, what are other best practices for sharing and protecting [our landscapes]?

I’ve actually got a draft blog of this that I’m refining so apt question! I think it’s important to remember that you don’t need to be an ‘influencer’ to have influence — my mum has an influence over her Facebook friends which is why I should probably tell her to stop posting photos of our favourite places, haha! The main thing that I’m trying to do is get people to think about what and where they share… Could we raise awareness of places that could do with a boost, rather than visiting the same spots to get the ‘shot’? Should we travel off-season to reduce the pressure on crowded places? Could all use our influence, however big or small, to champion the causes we care about? Oh and last one.. What about pouring over an Ordnance Survey map to find a place that’s not been geotagged like crazy on Google? (my favourite!). What do you think?

Did you go to university? If so, what did you study?

Yes I did! I went to Glasgow University and studied English Literature and French with a year abroad in Normandy. The French author whose work I wrote my dissertation on will actually be at Edinburgh Book Festival this summer so I’m excited about seeing her! I absolutely loved studying what I did, but I guess it just proves that you can create another niche for yourself that’s (fairly) unrelated to your degree if you follow what you enjoy doing, especially if you’re doing a degree that isn’t really vocational — I wrote for a student newspaper and began blogging whilst I was at uni, and now I’m a social media manager. Never saw that coming, haha!

Best book you’ve read this year?

The below list has majorly stalled thanks to the summer weather and being distracted by a certain TV show… For non-fiction, I’ve enjoyed Austerity by Yanis Varoufakis, On Writing by Steven King and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. For fiction, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and the Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. And for giving myself a kick up the arse with life, Wabi Sabi by Beth Kempton. The local library has been a godsend for almost all of these!

A woman dressed in black walking along a beach in the sunshine
Me walking on a Scottish beach | Nicolas Loisel via GIPHY

What’s your biggest Instagram tourist pet peeve?

I think it’s firstly important to make the distinction between Instagram and tourists — not all tourists have Instagram, and not all Instagrammers are tourists. I think the peeves that people have, and maybe wrongly associate with Instagram, is the omnipresence of phones and cameras, and I personally feel quite sad that people may be documenting what they’re doing on their camera roll rather than actually experiencing it… But that’s a whole other coconut! Some more general pet peeves — which Scottish people are also guilty of — are driving dangerously and littering (there is literally no excuse for this laziness).

How does travelling influence how you are exploring Scotland?

I know I’m very lucky to live in Scotland — my answer might be different if I was a tourist here! I spent almost all of my childhood holidays caravanning in beautiful parts of the country so I guess you could say I’m a creature of habit, because I’ll be doing just that again in a couple of weeks! I don’t think any of us can deny that what we see on social media does influence, however subconsciously, the way that we behave — so in the past I have felt pressured to visit pretty places and ‘curate’ my trips more than I would do now. I have realised over the years that I get more enjoyment in exploring places at my own pace, appreciating quiet corners of stunning Scotland without the crowds.

How much editing do you do to photos and what’s your favourite software?

I am pretty old school so have a DSLR from 2012 that I just AirDrop photos from the SD card to my (equally old model of) iPhone. I then edit them on VSCO — I have a filter I love that desaturates some of the blue of the sea and sky; I’ve used it for years. In terms of other software I can recommend that I use for work, Canva has some great free templates for Stories and Filmm for video editing on your phone. I’m spending less time editing than I used to though — I think the fact that the apparent perfection of Instagram content is under the microscope means there’s less pressure on people to curate flawless photos.

Has anyone mentioned the pursuit of likes? Would photography be as enjoyable otherwise?

I definitely think social media has changed how we create — now photographers, if they choose, can enter themselves in a weird virtual ratings game. Some people have mentioned the pursuit of ‘the shot’ and how this can affect a place by contributing to crowds and encouraging others to go there. So I think we need to be mindful of that and seriously think about what brings us that joy (for me likes are an empty metric, although I do love talking to people on here about things that matter to us) and what could cause harm. Like anything else, we need to take responsibility for how we could make a positive change, whilst also not blaming ourselves too much — if a certain spot is being promoted in a multinational campaign or by a celebrity with huge influence, there’s very little we can do to change that. However we can think before we act, and make sure that we’re not inadvertently contributing to a wider issue by repeatedly posting already crowded locations just for likes.

Thank you for the questions!

I’ll be sharing more on these themes over the next few months as part of my #HashtagScotland campaign alongside fellow Scotland lover Nicolas Loisel. I also had a very interesting chat with Sarah from Strikes of Luck, who explained how little she sees transparency in the blogging industry — so I’ll look to write some more on that topic too.

Featured image copyright Thinking Juice/Barbour.

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