Bali is one of the most popular destinations on social media.
The impact that platforms like Instagram and TikTok have had on tourism development on the Island of the Gods is undeniable.
The Insta vs. Reality or Expectation vs. Reality trend is nothing new. The hashtag started trending online in the mid-2010s. Yet, it’s still trending.
The concept was born from the online influencer culture that shares highly stylized, super-edited, and hyper-curated images and videos on their feeds.
The trend often puts a humorous spin on the disappointment or embarrassment felt by non-influencers who have visited a place, tried a trend, or adopted a new habit under the inspiration of an influencer, largely to have a much different experience.
Yet, as new trends come and go, the Insta vs. Reality take on Bali has never fallen far from the top of our feeds.
It begs the question, will the images of a less than picturesque travel reality in Bali be off-putting for potential travelers, or does it help people understand what they’re signing up for?
Some may argue that the trend will help Bali’s tourism sector, giving lesser visited areas a chance to step into the limelight.
@maihokimkhanh totally worth it! #foryoupage #fyp #balitravel2022 #bali2022 #expectationvreality #instagramvsreality #travel2022 #summervibes #lekelekewaterfall #bali ♬ My Heart Will Go On (Flute Version) – Faith
While others say that influencers and content creators have ‘destroyed’ the tourism sector in Bali, it only takes a quick glimpse at travel forums to see that many old-time visitors to Bali, and some locals, think any and all influencers should be sent packing as soon as possible.
Though some influencers give the profession a bad name, content creators have played a huge role in bringing travelers, holidaymakers, honeymoon couples, and investments to the island.
@victoria_goulbourne Dont be fooled by insta 😅🌝 #traveltok #bali #canggu #indonesia #traveltok #comedy #fyp #instavsreality #baliviews #balitravel ♬ original sound – Andrei King
It must also be noted that Indonesia is one of the largest markets for Instagram in the world.
With over 120 million active users, the social media site continues to grow in popularity with people across the country as users start to drop off in other parts of the world. The Instagram vs. Reality trend is most frequently seen in Bali as published by foreigners.
Whereas generally speaking, the travel content shared by domestic tourists, whether influencers or community users, tends to be more curated and leans toward the idealistic image of the island.
@travelling.nusapenida Expectation 😍 Vs Reality 😂 Molenteng Tree House Nusa penida bali. 🎥 Instagram dainadaina #nusapenida #bali #indonesia #travel #trip #fyp #balitravel #balitour #travelingnusapenida ♬ suara asli – NUSAPENIDA
Instagram Vs. Reality at Gateway to Heaven
One of Bali’s most iconic cultural landmarks is the Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple, also known as the Gateway to Heaven. Located in Karagansem Regency, the ancient stone gateway at the traditional entrance to the temple offers breathtaking views of Mount Agung.
The photo of the gateway, usually with a tourist or couple standing in the middle with a perfect reflection spanning back towards the camera, is an image that has been replicated thousands of times over. Yet, the Insta Vs. Realty trend reveals to the world the trick of the camera and the journey to getting the photo.
@travelwithsamm Lempuyang Temple was not what I expected, but it was still beautiful nonetheless! 😍 #lempuyangtemple #lempuyang #heavensgate #balisquad #balitourism ♬ A-O-K – Tai Verdes
First, tourists must walk up the steep steps and winding hill from the village car park to Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple itself.
In high season there is almost always a queue to get the famous snap. In 2022, the queue even reached 4 hours long. Then there is the trick of the camera, and it’s a good one. Local guides and temple staff hold a mirror to the camera lens to perfectly reflect back the view in front of them.
Nevertheless, a visit to Sad Kahyangan Lempuyang Temple is not to be missed. The temple complex is one of the oldest in Bali and one of the most important spiritual sites for Balinese Hindus.
@klaudiabinek1 Warto było czekać 😀♥️. #bali #expectationvsreality #gateofheaven #gateofheavenbali #gateofheavenlempuyang #3hourslater ♬ original sound – Andrei King
Instagram Vs. Reality at Nusa Penida
The view of Kelingking Beach was made ultra-famous by social media platforms. Located on the outlying island of Nusa Penida, Kelingking Beach can be accessed by a steep and often unstable pathway down the jagged cliff face.
The site is so popular that queues often mount up, and there have been dozens of cases of tourists falling or tripping on the steps resulting in everything from a few grazes to emergency evacuation.
Other areas of Nusa Penida have been struck by the Insta vs. Reality trend, too; Broken Beach, Diamond Beach, and Angel Beach have all been shared using the hashtag or similar.
@loveeeliz Rain season started extra early just for us 🥰 #bali #nusapenida #kelingkingbeach ♬ original sound – Andrei King
Instagram Vs. Reality in Canggu
Perhaps the most prolific of all are the videos of Insta vs. Reality in Canggu.
Most of the videos showcase the famous Canggu Shortcut. Once precisely that – a shortcut – the pathway through local rice paddies has now become a highway.
So much so that now locals are taking matters into their own hands and building their own roads through their land or creating new shortcuts on farm tracks.
The rising number of collisions and traffic incidences, as well as gridlock traffic jams and concerns from locals, has led the Badung Regency government to allocate more funds for road improvements in 2023.
@victoria_goulbourne Beware of the traffic 😆😆 this wasnt even bad! But for real – ILY bali 🏻🇮🇩 #bali #balitravel #travel #traveltok #fyp #balitraffic #canggu ♬ original sound – Andrei King
All this said, Bali is one of the most stunning locations in the world and always will be.
The trend is almost always shared in a tongue-in-cheek way. Mass tourism has undoubtedly had its negative side effects, and this is something that tourism stakeholders in Bali are very much aware of.
The Instagram vs. Reality trend is certainly not going anywhere, so, with that in mind, it poses an opportunity for tourism stakeholders and travelers; to find and protect destinations across Bali so that Insta vs. Reality is ‘sama’.
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