Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
How social media is helping bloggers make a lasting impact
Hiking in the Knuckles mountain range, waterfalls in Bambarakanda, panoramic views of the Southern Coast from atop Elephant Rock, or the picturesquely framed terraced rice fields of Uva. If these locales ring a bell, then congratulations you're probably more well-travelled than the average Sri Lankan tourist, but if not then fret not as a new brand of Sri Lankan bloggers and influencers have arrived to sate your wanderlust.
Foremost among them is Tashiya De Mel, who runs the @Lostinceylon handle on Instagram, where she takes you on a curated journey off the beaten path, introducing her 6000-strong follower base to the beauty of Sri Lanka that not many may be familiar with.
“There's a ton of travel influencers or bloggers, going to places, showing the inside of a hotel room, showing the food that they ate. That's not what I want Lost in Ceylon to be about; it's not about me,” explains De Mel, who scarcely even has a picture of herself posted on her page.
“There's a lot of diversity in places to see, but people don't see them as much.” Indeed, when travelling around Sri Lanka there's now a veritable checklist of sites to see for the average tourist: Yala and Wilpattu National Parks, Sigiriya, World's End, Horton Plains, Unawatuna, Arugam Bay, Galle, to name but a few. For De Mel, her travel
The hope is that as the situation in the country gradually improves her page can serve as a platform for tourists to find travel destinations where social distancing is made easier
adventures around Sri Lanka started similarly but it wasn't long before she began to see the vast downside to tourists flocking to the same sites repeatedly.
“What I started realising once I started doing this was other things within tourism and travelling - things that I felt really wasn't part of the conversation - like pollution, waste, and over-tourism.
“I wanted to start addressing issues of how we travel more responsibly, how do you think about stuff when you go to a new landscape, how do you appreciate the place you're in? And then work towards conserving that in some way.”
De Mel, who is a communications specialist by trade but has always had a passion for photography, says Instagram has been the ideal platform for getting her message across, while certain features, such as Instagram Stories, she says has allowed her to share her experiences in as authentic a way as possible.
“Instagram has been crucial in showcasing that aspect, and giving people a very visual way to understand the message.
“I also try and keep my stuff simple. As a visual person I try to post what I like to see. In that sense I like for the video or visual of the landscape to speak and the text accompanying it to be minimal, and only with information you need to know. And always making it a story in some way, where you mix it up with polls and questions as well.”
This has also allowed De Mel to, in a way, create a branding for herself and her content, with her followers now able to easily differentiate her content from other pages simply by virtue of their stylistic feel.
“It's helped me develop a visual style that I use. It's sort of like a branding in a way, which is something I try to stick with, so that people know it's me posting when they see the content.
“The beauty of Instagram is very visual, it's clean, it works nicely. I'm not an expert on anything, I'm just a person talking about issues or trying to get people to understand certain things.
I would not have been able to do it on other platforms or in my own capacity.” Following the outbreak of COVID-19, De Mel's travel excursions have definitely taken a back seat, but the hope is that as the situation in the country gradually improves her page can serve as a platform for tourists to find travel destinations where social distancing is made easier.
The virus has also shed light on the continuing importance of addressing issues such as climate change and environmental pollution, with the studies showing the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events making the future containment of similar viruses much harder.