Discovering the ‘social’ side of social media – why we love Instagram

A quick guide to Instagram (skip this part if you are an InstaPro)

Instagram is a social media platform designed for sharing photos. You have an account with a unique name that people can ‘follow’, this means they will see every time you post a photo. People can then ‘like’ and comment on your photos.

You can also ‘hashtag’ your photos. A ‘hashtag’, (#) is effectively a key word that you can assign to your photo. For example, we could put #Japan #Travel… people who search those words will find our photo (somewhere, if it isn’t buried among a million others).

Another feature on Instagram is posting your location. When you share a photo, you have the option to tag the location the photo was taken. This is great for travellers who are visually inspired (as we are to some extent) as it makes it easy to locate that beautiful city, waterfall, beach, building, coffee shop…. that you are looking at.

We have two Instagram accounts – one is our general travel account; @itsplanesailing (the ‘@’ comes before all Instagram account names) and the other, newer account is specifically for us to showcase the Iya Valley and Shikoku: @iyavalleyjapan

While we were living on Haji, we started to discover a new side to Instagram – it is great for MEETING people. I don’t mean an online, virtual ‘meeting’, I mean actually going for a drink, having a chat, and getting to know each other.

The yachting community on Instagram is strong; there is always a lot of support from likeminded people, and other users are generally happy to offer tips and advice. Our first encounter with other sailing Instagrammers was in Le Marin, Martinique. We were tootling around in the dinghy when I spotted a whale tale on the side of a catamaran. I recognised it immediately from Instagram as @sailing_beluga. We stopped by but there was no one home. Luckily, Instagram gives you the option to send a private message, so we let them know that we were anchored near by if they were interested in meeting up for drinks. We ended up spending New Year’s Eve together and so began a new friendship. Although we have now swapped other contact information, we still tend to use Instagram to keep in touch (miss you guys <3 )

Lately, we have had lots of messages from other Instagram users – the fact that Iya Valley is so niche means we really stand out. Anyone coming to the Iya Valley is likely to see our account, and potentially take an interest. Our hope is to bring more people to the area by showing off its natural beauty and interesting sights. Lots of people get in touch for tips on where to go, places to stay, and where to eat. Despite not having been here long, we are still privy to ‘insider’ information.

We were asked recently if we could recommend a good spot to pitch a tent in the area, to which we instantly replied ‘our garden?’ (We also offered use of the house, as well as giving a few campsite ideas.) The Australian couple in question took up our offer (the crazies are cycling all over the world!) and so ensued a delightful evening of swapping travel stories. (Grandma, don’t worry – we asked if they were murderers before letting them stay!) The most worrying part is, since they left we have discussed buying bikes and meeting them in Europe!

Without Instagram, we would never have made these friends. I feel that many people see the ‘photography’ side of the app, but are totally missing that there is a ‘human interaction’ aspect to it as well.

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