Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Postcards From Chernobyl

You may have seen that popular tweet ostensibly showing people “flocking” to Chernobyl to post glamorous photos of themselves on Instagram. Unsurprisingly, that explanation is wildly incorrect.

Taylor Lorenz, the Atlantic:

By yesterday evening, Zupan’s tweet had been collectively shared tens of thousands of times. Even Chrissy Teigen retweeted it to her 11.2 million followers. But the viral tweet’s claim is false, and its premise — that photos at sites of tragedy are inherently self-serving and in poor taste — is misleading.

While the area surrounding the destroyed reactor has undeniably morphed into a tourist destination, and interest in the disaster has spiked since the premiere of HBO’s miniseries Chernobyl, the Instagram geotag offers zero evidence of any uptick in lifestyle influencers visiting the site. Three of the four people that Zupan chose to highlight in his tweet aren’t influencers at all.

Photos like those highlighted in the tweet have been posted on Instagram for years; I know that because I’ve been looking at them for years. I’m not interested in disaster tourism but I’ve long wanted to visit the Duga radar arrays in the Exclusion Zone.

If this silly tweet proves anything about influence, it’s that a television show can spike interest in pretty typical photographs shared on the web — albeit of a place of pain and suffering — and people might ascribe horrible motivations to their subjects.