How Social Media Distorts the Reality of Digital Nomadism

Behind the photos there's a less glamourous side to digital nomads.


If you’re a traveller, we’ve all done it at some point or another – spent hours on Instagram looking at enviable travel pictures, following the adventures of digital nomads, being jealous of all the cool experiences they’re always posting about, thinking “I want that life”.

But the truth is that those beautiful pictures you’re drooling over are just a small portion, the best part, of being a digital nomad. They’re curated to make you envious of the life they’re living.  

What these accounts don’t show is the work that goes into those photos. And not just the photos themselves. But the hours of actual work that allows digital nomads to be digital nomads.  For so many aspiring remote workers they see the very few, fortunate, digital nomads who have the dream job.  But the reality for most digital nomads is that they’re still working a steady job. So, while they may get to live in a beautiful dream location they still need to sit down and put in a full day of work. Here are four ways that social media can distort the lives we see for digital nomads.


1. It doesn’t show the day to day

Curating a beautiful Instagram is fun and can get a digital nomad a lot of viewers but it fails to show the work you put in behind the scene.  No one wants to see when you work a 12-hour day, when you miss a deadline, or when you have to say no to an adventure because you have work commitments.  These don’t make a good story so digital nomads rarely show them. Often, as viewers, we forget that being a digital nomad isn’t all about the endless fun and adventures. Social media depicts the fun side and it’s very easy to romanticize and create an unrealistic version of what life could be.


2. Social media presents our “ideal self”

Who we are in real life and who we present online are often at odds.  Instagram (and other social media outlets) are curated snapshots of how we want people to perceive us, even if that snapshot is not always the whole truth.  We’ve all read about Instagram famous people who spend hours curating the perfect picture – even though it’s far from reality.  Sometimes taking that perfect picture can take hundreds of shots, the perfect lighting and staging, and often a professional photographer. Of course, we would all love to see ourselves, and our surroundings, looking perfect – that’s how we would want people to see us.  But it’s not always real and it creates an unrealistic view of ourselves and our travels.


3. Social media can often turn into a contest

People are always trying to out-do each other and post a “better” picture.  But for the average traveller, it’s not sustainable.  Often, these digital nomad travel pictures are done professionally and take a lot of work (before and after) to get them looking as appealing as they do.  Trying to compare your photos to theirs is silly and can ultimately make you feel let down that your photos aren’t as “perfect” as the inspiration.


4. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

Fear of missing out (or the grass is always greener) is a huge component of social media envy.  It’s easy to follow the stories of digital nomad travellers and start to feel like you’re missing out.  But the truth is that a digital nomad lifestyle comes with its own challenges.  Some digital nomads are constantly moving and don’t have a steady home base, which makes it hard to sustain friendships and/or relationships.  While this is a choice that comes with the lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get lonely or old after a while.


The Verdict

None of this means that being a digital nomad isn’t fun, or that you don’t get to see beautiful places and do amazing things.  It just means that what you see is only a portion of what a digital nomad lifestyle is and that by romanticizing the idea you aren’t doing justice to how hard people work to have that life.  

Keep following the travel sites that make you want to chase your travel aspirations or the digital nomad lifestyle. You can read more about the resources to get started here. Just be mindful – the digital nomad life isn’t always as beautiful or as non-stop fun as you may believe. Those adventures you see are a result of a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scene.  

In the end, enjoy social media, the power of connections, and appreciate the medium as the art it can be. As always, Travel Easy!


The Sherpa Team send a huge thank you to guest blogger Brandi for insight into digital nomads. You can follow her adventures through her website Brandi Travels, and you connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest! Do you want to contribute to Sherpa? Have a blog idea we should cover? Check out our Initiatives Page and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!