Millennials Flocking to Instagram-Famous Lake 'Horrified' After Company Admits What Color Is From


When I started using computers as a young whippersnapper — starting with my venerable Atari ST, followed by one of those beige Gateway 2000 boxes with a whopping 8 megabytes of RAM — social media for me, such as it was in its very early stages, consisted of stuff like CompuServe, Usenet and IRC. If you don’t know what those are, don’t worry: They were basically chat rooms, bulletin boards and/or information services. Perhaps I remember them more charitably than I should, but the discussion was usually pitched at a relatively civilized, intelligent level, rudimentary as the platforms may have been.

As I got a bit older, social media advanced to blog networks and AOL Instant Messenger; the former allowed you to vent your most trivial thoughts at length (and I do mean at length), while the latter allowed you to cram all of the Dave Matthews Band lyrics and Hunter Thompson quotes you could in your profile. Then came Myspace, which allowed you to actually put that Dave Matthews Band song on autoplay on your profile, forcing everyone to listen to it until they could find the button to turn it off. Then there was Facebook and Twitter and — well, you know about those, and the less said about them the better.

The point is that, as a forum for intelligent sharing, social media has been on a downward trend since the beginning. If you want a proof of just how low the line on the graph can go, I give you the fact that users of Instagram — that favorite social media tool of my generation, the millennials — have been flocking to a lake in Siberia because of its turquoise color without realizing it’s actually a dump for a coal-fired power plant.

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#НовосибирскиеМальдивы: пользователи Instagram нашли новое место для ярких фотографий. Это озеро под Новосибирском с бирюзовой водой, напоминающее райские острова. На самом деле водоем является золоотвалом, куда сливает отходы местная ТЭЦ. В Сети разошлись слухи о повышенном радиационном фоне возле озера. Специалисты слухи опровергли, но все же посоветовали людям гулять в другом месте.

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This is a verified user with over 600,000 followers paddling out in the midst of a lake which, according to BuzzFeed News, has been called the “Novosibirsk Maldives” for that Caribbean-esque color. The fact that it’s next to the Novosibirsk CHP-5 coal plant apparently hasn’t tipped anyone off to the fact that the only reason this effect is organic is that it has to do, at some level further up the chemical reaction chain, with organic chemistry.

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Unsurprisingly, the Siberian Generating Company would much prefer that you stop making the trek to the lake.

Do you think social media has become worse over time?

In a June 10 statement translated out of Russian by my trusty Chrome browser — a browser which is no doubt shuddering at the fact that I’m giving screen time to narcissists that don’t realize the cerulean hues of the lake are caused by chemicals — the company warns that while the water isn’t necessarily poisonous, “skin contact with such water may cause an allergic reaction” due to its high alkalinity.

The lake is an ash dump which stores coal burned at the station. Due to the fact that it’s relatively deep as ash dumps go (I’m taking the Siberian Generating Company’s word on this, given that my ash-dump knowledge is a bit rusty) and that substances like calcium salts and metal oxides are present, it looks like a Caribbean beach. In Siberia! Who could possibly think this was unnatural?

They also insisted there was no radiation involved; “Two INDEPENDENT laboratories concluded this,” they said in the statement. It’s all in caps, so you know you can trust them.

Take these claims as you will, given the transparency and strict regulatory structure that I’m certain Russian heavy industry operates under. The point is that the lake has become, as the Siberian Generating Company said in its statement, a “star of social networks” — even though the artificial reservoir’s muddy bottom makes it almost impossible to get out of alone. (In other words, don’t fall off that paddleboard, millennial-looking guy in hat and sleeveless shirt!)

And paddleboarding isn’t the stupidest thing Instagrammers have done there. BuzzFeed described one individual who said the water was “warm and tastes sweetish.”

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“It’s better not to repeat,” she said. Yes, I would say so.

One Instagrammer who took a picture by the lake was incensed that the area wasn’t fenced off: “I read an article on the NGS about this place, and I was horrified,” she wrote. “This is an industrial zone, an ash dump, where the entrance is forbidden, but since the whole thing is not fenced, it means we can.”

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Все уже сделали фоточки на местных мальдивах? У всех на месте подошва от сандаликов? ? Прочитала статью на нгс про это место, и ужаснулась Это промзона, золоотвал, куда вообще то вход запрещён, но так как все это дело не огорожено забором, то значит нам можно? Конечно цвет воды завораживает, фотографии получаются красивые. А при определенном ракурсе, если надеть купальник и не захватывать берег, то и правда получатся мальдивы Хоть такие, но мальдивы? Признавайтесь, кто был уже? Венок доступен к аренде и продаже #cvetyvvolosah_sale

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However, the idea that this would even need to be fenced off is an indication that social media has either revealed or engendered utter imbecility on a massive scale. I’ve seen similar reservoirs several times, having grown up in New Jersey. (Yes, yes, I know; please save me your jokes about the whole state being a chemical dump.) There was one I saw every week off of the Garden State Parkway as we would go and visit my grandmother. Was I fascinated by it? Sure. Did I want to go there so I could take a picture? No. Did I want to paddleboard in it or taste the water? I’ve survived into my 30s, which should answer that question rather neatly.

But then, tourism at Novosibirsk CHP-5 is just a small part of a larger problem. There’s an entire article on Wikipedia titled “List of selfie-related injuries and deaths.” It’s not short.

It’s also not like people don’t know the dangers, either. A perusal of the article seems to indicate many of these incidents involved selfies taken on mountains or canyons, something that would seem foolish on face. Did these selfie-addicts think they were Wily E. Coyote and could magically pop back into shape after being reduced to a cartoonish puddle at the bottom? Did they forget that canyons and mountains are of interest in part because they’re, like, really far up?

It’s not just naturally generated heights that pose a danger to the selfie-crazed, however. Take this incident in Manhattan from 2018, as reported by The New York Times: “One of the five passengers on the doorless helicopter hovering high above Manhattan had just leaned back toward the pilot to snap a photograph of his feet dangling in midair — a coveted shot known on social media as a ‘shoe selfie’ — when the trouble started.”

The engine of the copter had shut off and it was going down. “So, after yelling at the passengers to return to their seats, [the pilot] circled around and glided toward the East River, making a mayday call as he cleared the buildings at the island’s edge. The pilot, Richard Vance, said he deployed the floats on the helicopter’s skids in preparation for impact, then reached down for the emergency fuel shut-off lever.

“But he found that it had already been tripped, and beneath it he spotted a possible culprit, the nylon tether that had allowed his front-seat passenger to move around the cabin and take pictures unimpeded by doors or windows — or a seatbelt.”

Perhaps you could blame the design of the helicopter involved. Or perhaps you could blame the fact that, I don’t know, some genius thought it was a bright idea to take off his seatbelt, dangle his feet out of a helicopter above Manhattan and snap a “foot selfie,” managing to cut the fuel supply to the engine in the process and send the helicopter into the East River.

But hey, at least people learn, right? After the June 10 statement from the Siberian Generating Company and subsequent coverage, surely our Russian Instagrammer friends have ceased their visits to the Novosibirsk Maldives.

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??Работяги, плавать там не опасно? На следующее утро мои ноги слегка покраснели и чесались дня два, потом все прошло ?? Но что не сделаешь ради таких снимков?Вода на вкус немного кисловата, похожа на мел ? ??It,s not dangerous to swim here. The next morning, my legs turned slightly red and itched for two days, but then everything went. But what wouldn’t you do for the sake of such pictures? The water tastes a little sour ? #новосибирскиемальдивы #золоотвалтэц5 #золоотвал #золоотвалнск #тэц5

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That’s from July 4. He said that “The next morning my feet are slightly turned red and itched for two days” and the “water tastes a little sour, like chalk.”

Keep on rockin’ in the not-entirely-free world, Russian Instagrammers. I suppose you’re no more foolish than your counterparts over here, but that doesn’t engender much hope for the rest of us millennials. In fact, given how long social media has been around and how far the search for rock bottom has come, I’m kind of amazed there are any of us left.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture