I recently took a trip to Antarctica for the same reason that I bought a bottle of overpriced (and overhyped) perfume: the Internet made me do it.
It all started back one day in the summer of 2015. You know how it goes: I was flipping through random photos on Instagram, stumbled upon the gallery of a NatGeo photographer, got sucked into a hashtag hole for #antarctica, and suddenly, there I was on the blog of a random Dutch traveler. He wrote about sliding down glaciers amongst a colony of penguins, camping out in shallow snow graves under the Antarctic sky, diving into the most polar of polar plunges, and inhaling the strange smell of whale breath from mere meters away. I was sold.
And so began my journey to Antarctica — not in the winter wonderland of Anvers Island but on the couch of a condo in South Boston.
I ate up other people’s reviews on TripAdvisor. I binged on Antarctica documentaries on Netflix. I rifled through strangers’ Instagram photos, YouTube videos, Facebook comments, and blog posts. I became what PJA politely calls an “Engaged Buyer” but what most other people deem an “Internet Creeper.” The Internet Creeper is not passively influenced by a single banner ad; they actively seek out multiple sources of information in their purchasing decisions, and they don’t care whose digital underwear drawer they have to rummage through to do it. After a month of this disgusting behavior, I ultimately booked a trip with One Ocean Expeditions — just as the polar-plunging, glacier-sliding, whale-breath-smelling Dutchman wanted me to. Bravo, One Ocean’s marketing department. Bravo.
My creeping wasn’t done there. After booking my trip, I had to purchase all the Antarctic accoutrements to go along with it. I selected our flights based on flyer reviews at SeatGuru.com. Amazon’s customer reviews helped me decide which fleece layers were worth their weight in my suitcase. Photography blogs recommended lenses that would give me the best penguin shots from five meters away. And YouTube videos helped me find the best camera bag for my two DSLRs. Yes, I bought a backup camera — for the Bible AKA TripAdvisor Forums told me so.
It's the next evolution of reality TV: reality advertising. Instagram-famous pets tell us which products are the cat’s meow. YouTube gurus tell us which cosmetics are the so-called "holy grail." Bloggers trade content for free experiences. It’s an advertiser’s world, and we’re just living (and posting) in it.
Antarctica was certainly a sight to behold, but perhaps the most incredible place on Earth is the Internet. It can make you do crazy things — like take a perilous journey to the frozen end of the world. Just please, whatever the Internet makes you do, do not buy Le Labo’s Santal 33 perfume. It smells like whale breath.
NOTE: This post NOT sponsored by One Ocean Expeditions