Travel and Adventure

No, You Definitely Did Not Sleep There!

Here's what the owner of Instagram's @youdidnotsleepthere account has to say about the trend of perfect—but sometimes fake—adventure photos. Monday, 13 November

By Lindsay N. Smith

It’s a trend that’s infiltrating our social media —and, so, our lives. Our Instagram feeds are flooded with photos of carefully coiffed hair at a salon with exposed brick, the most beautiful eggs benedict in a perfectly lit café, and rock hard abs reflected in an expensive gym’s shadowed mirror. Despite its appreciation of the natural world, the adventure community isn’t immune to this perfect facade.

These images can trigger an intense pressure to measure up—or, for some—a fit of laughter. This is the approach that Luisa Jeffery, who works for a music licensing company during the week, took when she started noticing the craze among campers and hikers. After seeing a friend take a staged shot for a retailer, she was inspired to start an Instagram account highlighting the absurdity of these posts. Called @youdidnotsleepthere, the page has been exposing fake-campers since 2015.

We spoke with her about how she got started, where she finds images for the account, and what clichés drive her crazy.

Where are you based?

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and then moved to the West Coast of the USA to be in the mountains in 2010. I’ve been up and down since then: Whistler, Los Angeles, and now Portland.

And how do you feel about sleeping outside?

I love it. I camp in the back of my truck, mostly. Have a pretty solid Toyota Ta-home-a.

Can you tell us what inspired you to start this account?

I was a huge fan of @youdidnoteatthat and @youdidnotskatethat when they were active. Then while on a rafting trip my friend suggested we set up a tent just to get a shot for Poler [an outdoor retailer]. Once we got home, I started noticing how absurd some of photos circulating Instagram were and it all happened from there.

So how long have you been reposting images of these unbelievable outdoors men and women?

I think I started in the summer of 2015 and am shocked I'm still doing it.

How do you usually find the content to repost?

I started by scouring accounts of "adventure photographers." Now I get tagged in tons of photos and get tons of direct messages. Makes it pretty easy to find the gems.

What has the response been?

It's been great. There's always the guy who goes, "but I did sleep there," and that’s part of the fun. It’s also fun to push buttons and wind people up who take Instagram way too seriously.

But have you received any negative reactions?

The internet is full of haters, but I think the clout factor keeps them at bay these days. I love calling the haters out so I kind of miss them.

Have you ever been wrong and found out someone really did sleep in that unbelievable spot?

For sure. But it’s not about being wrong or right at all, it’s just about pointing out clichés and making people laugh. I have never taken this that seriously.

There's are a few tropes that seem to keep coming up in staged adventure photos. What faked campsite features makes you cringe most?

Feet out the tent and a lit up tent at night under a billion stars.

Any other clichés you’ve seen that drive you nuts?

Norway is getting a bit out of control these days. I'm just sick of seeing the same thing over and over again—it’s hard to find unique outdoor photography in a space as saturated as Instagram.

These not-so-unique images are so popular. We've even been known to post a few at National Geographic Adventure. Why do you think people are drawn to them?

I think there are lots of things. For people who don't live near or have access to the outdoors, photos like the ones I post seem pretty unattainable and special. I also think there has to be something more scientific though. Our brains are built to react to beauty, so possibly seeing the image of someone standing in natural beauty (cue cliché staring into the distance photo) and even repeating imagery [creates a positive response]. I don't know. I'd be interested in talking to a scientist about it.