A hotel chain in Switzerland is offering a new service: a “social media sitter” who will take photos of a guest’s vacation and post them on Instagram on their behalf. This is the world we are now all living in.
Visitors to Ibis hotel locations in Geneva and Zurich this month had the option to buy a room package that includes a hired Instagram influencer to ostensibly let the vacationers take a break from social media, while still maintaining a jealousy-inducing presence online. The $90-and-up service is called “Relax We Post.”
According to the terms of service (link in French), the posts have to be hashtagged #postedbysocialmediasitter, and the patrons give their Instagram passwords to the sitter for the duration of the weekend. A press release (link in French) indicates that the patrons can brief the sitter on their expectations and their interests. So far, there are only a handful of such photos publicly available on Instagram. The program is a trial run, and will end this weekend.
The company told Quartz it’s had “several” bookings, but would not disclose exact numbers. It also has not yet decided whether to continue with the service. Ibis is “moving with the times,” said Pascal Aeberhard, the marketing and PR director for AccorHotels Switzerland. Smartphone dependency and social media pressure are a “very topical issue, particularly for the young, urban target groups that the Ibis family appeals to.”
The whole thing—likely a publicity stunt to promote the budget chain, which is owned by the French AccorHotels—is rather perplexing, starting with the ad for the offer. A promotional video gives a terrifying vision of the insane (and entirely self-imposed) pressures social media exerts on travelers.
A couple is shown taking a romantic boat excursion on a lake. When the man starts to take photos with his phone, people start popping up from under the lake’s surface, personifying various social media behaviors in a maddening chorus. One woman screams out “hashtag lake,” “hashtag love,” interrupted by a loud man obsessed with getting more “likes.” An ex-girlfriend emerges from the depths lamenting “You are here with her?!” Then, the Instagram sitter, a man in a white suit, descends upon the boat like some sort of deranged angel from heaven, takes the phone from the man, and apparently posts it online, leading the horde of people away from the couple, and saving everyone from all the different anxieties Instagram has to offer.
It’s hard to imagine that the chorus of social media anxieties disappear when you hire an influencer to post for you. If anything, the clip is a perfect PSA to leave your phone at home altogether.
As depressing as it is, “Relax We Post” points to the outsized role Instagram has in the way young people travel. The hotel chain acknowledges this in its press release. Many people, it says, “have the tendency to live important moments through their smartphones, rather than enjoying the moment.” Instagram photo-ops are determining travel destinations—even when everyone else has already done the same thing—while simultaneously transforming others to become more ‘grammable. Companies are taking advantage in various ways. The airline EasyJet is letting travelers book tickets based on Instagram posts. And a similar service to the “sitter” was introduced by a hotel in the Maldives last year, where an Instagram “butler” takes you to the most picturesque locations and offer tips on how to take a good photograph.
A better service, be it from the butler or the sitter, would perhaps be to throw the vacationer’s phone into an Instagrammable body of water and let them just relax.