Just like Instagram has ruined nature, people talking to each other at parties, and the battery life on your smartphone, it’s ruining Burning Man, and the people who organize the event would love it if the influencers could cut it out, please. In a blog post published on Saturday, Marian Goodell, CEO of the Nonprofit Burning Man wrote about “alarming changes in the culture of Burning Man in Black Rock City,” specifically citing participants who would only let young people and/or “hot girls” ride their vehicle.
Two of the chief issues facing the event (Burning Man is not a festival, per another blog post) are companies that sell “prepackaged” Burning Man experiences, and those who integrate Instagram posts into the exchange of goods on the Playa. One of the core principles of Burning Man is “decommodification,” and traditionally, people either give away or trade for supplies; there’s no money allowed. Circumventing that ethos by, essentially, doing sponcon? Save that for Coachella, apparently. As Goodell wrote, “Posts of gratitude cross referenced with hashtags started off slow and innocently enough, but are now wildly out of control…One of the most distressing trends is the increase of participants (both new and experienced) who don’t seem invested in co-creating Black Rock City, and are attending as consumers…In some cases, camps or companies are offering ‘all inclusive’ pre-packaged Burning Man experiences, claiming they will preemptively meet all of their client’s needs. Burning Man is anything but convenient, and therein lies its transformative potential!” It’s a communal experience, it’s not glamping.
The sentiment echoes that of an earlier blog post, “(Non) Newsflash: Burning Man Is Not a Backdrop for Your Product,” which reminded people that even if you’re not selling things to other Burning Man-goers, using pictures you took there to sell stuff to the outside world isn’t cool, either.
But will any of the models, influencers and hippie lifestyle bloggers who attend every year pay attention, or will Burning Man turn into the branding opportunity that Fyre Fest almost was? Goodell writes that “Burning Man strives to stand in technicolor contrast to the typical consumerist, status-driven, brand-saturated, optimized-for-your-convenience world.” So, no Starbucks at Black Rock?