BYRON BAY, Australia — The moral quandaries of life as an Instagram influencer in the famously idyllic town of Byron Bay are not lost on Ruby Tuesday Matthews.
Ms. Matthews, 27, peddles more than vegan moisturizers, probiotic powders and conflict-free diamonds to her 228,000 followers. She is also selling an enviable lifestyle set against the backdrop of her Australian hometown’s crystalline coves and umbrellaed poolsides.
It’s part of the image-making that has helped transform Byron Bay — for better or worse — from a sleepy beach town drawing surfers and hippies into a globally renowned destination for the affluent and digitally savvy.
“I do kind of have moments where I’m like, ‘Am I exploiting this town that I live in?” Ms. Matthews said recently as she sat at The Farm, a sprawling agritourism enterprise that embodies the town’s wellness ethos. “But at the same time, it’s my job. It puts food on the table for my children.”
advertised on Instagram that morning. “They’re basically branding our town.”
The backlash has raised questions about who is entitled to control and capitalize on the cult of Byron Bay, a place now known for its slow and escapist lifestyle, where the bohemian has been glossed into a unified jungalow aesthetic of tasseled umbrellas, woven lanterns, linen clothing and exotic plants.
Some argued that the reality show would focus on a sliver of influencers whose picture-perfect presences on Instagram don’t represent the “real” Byron Bay. In doing so, they said, the show would expose the town to unwelcome outsiders.
“What right do they have to exploit grand Byron?” said Tess Hall, a filmmaker who moved to Byron Bay in 2015 and organized the petition and paddle out. She added that she feared the show would draw “the wrong type of person” to the region and share the town’s secret beach spots with the rest of the world.
“We’re not Venice Beach,” she said. “It’s a different vibe.”
moved to town.