Trendy photo-ops distract from genuine experiences

by Emily Alvarenga, Staff Columnist

San Diego is home to tons of unique restaurants, bars, coffee shops and murals — places that make for great Instagram pictures. Many have been labeled as “trendy” spots to Instagram in various magazines and blogs. Take a peek at almost any female San Diego State University student’s profile and there is a pattern.

The obsession with visiting these trendy locations seems to have sprung out of nowhere, but it has taken over. Whether it’s North Park with places like Holy Matcha or Pacific Beach with Crushed, visit any of these locations and there are lines of women waiting to take the perfect picture.

“To be honest, I don’t think anyone who goes to take a picture at these places even knows if they’re good places to go,” biology sophomore Kara Brown said. “I find myself asking if the food is just that good or if they don’t even care because, regardless, it’s the cool place to go.”

Most of these spots profit off of their distinct murals when people buy their products after their photo-op, but Pigment, a store in North Park, seems to get the short end of the stick. Pigment has not one, but three different photographable spots, yet they make very little money from the people who visit the store.

Although they carry charming merchandise, none of it is really in a college student’s budget, so photo-seekers almost never end up buying anything. Window shopping is one thing, but it’s entirely different to go to a store with the sole intent of getting a picture to post.

“I’ve been to Pigment quite a few times, and I never, not once, even thought to buy something,” kinesiology freshman Haley James said. “I mean their stuff is super cute and I’d love to buy all of it, but I just can’t afford it.”

And if it’s in North Park, it’s trendy, right? Communal Coffee is another perfect example with its popular mural. But it at least makes money in coffee and flower sales, because who takes a picture in front of a “COFFEE + FLOWERS” mural without a cup of coffee or bouquet of flowers in their hands?

Square Bar, on the other hand, isn’t located in North Park and doesn’t just have a super cool mural going for it. It’s a dessert shop in Kearny Mesa that not only has a mural, but also sells unique desserts that are Instagram-worthy all by themselves.

They have rainbow and pizza bagels, colorful cookies and ice cream covered in cereal with brightly colored cones to name a few. They’re probably one of the only places on the list whose food is more popular than the wall in their shop. And it seems like people don’t mind splurging for their high-priced desserts as long it’ll get them likes on their photos.

“The concept of this place is adorable and I love the idea of it, but the dessert is so mediocre,” criminal justice junior Nikki Davis said. “The ice cream’s really pricy for how bland it was, and it was nothing special except for how cool it looked.”

The mania has spread from just local must-visit places to people actually making their travel plans around “Instagrammable” locations. More and more articles are popping up detailing Instagram-worthy locations that would make picture perfect vacations. When did it become a thing to go somewhere just for the aesthetic and not because of the location itself?

“I have a friend who planned her entire two week trip to Europe by where she’d be able to take the most iconic pictures,” nursing senior Susanne Ricks said. “Doing stuff like that takes away from the culture of wherever you’re traveling and takes away from the experience.”

Instagram has changed the way people visit places — and especially how they see them. As the world transforms, it’s essential to remember how important exploration is, even in the places that might not make for great photos.