"Instagram-worthy" — is that a deciding factor in planning your trips? Do you think it is a realistic representation of your destination?
Long gone are the days when both amateurs and professionals waited to have their travel photographs printed and shown to others. Mobile phone photography has since changed how we view travel photography and upped the ante in how instantly we can share and expand our horizons. The swathes of selfie sticks that you see raised in the air in various popular tourist destinations have also contributed to this type of behavior, with others calling tourists out for their selfish actions in favor of a better photo. Luckily, it is not just social media accounts that shame irresponsible travelers, but also local authorities which are now starting to take matters in their own hands.
Traveling has since transformed into a more "social occasion" than an activity enjoyed and pursued in solitude, according to The Guardian. We involve everyone — those who view our stories and posts; whether we know the audience is irrelevant. Quick access to smartphone and the ability to instantly share a carefully curated image with hundreds or thousands of social media users is a reward big enough for some.
To explore the way social media photography and traveling impact one another, The Guardian undertook a study with two groups of participants, with six people in each, which were invited to visit Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra. One group was instructed not to post anything on social media but were still allowed to take photos. The second group was given a free reign and were allowed to both take and share images. Soon as the participants departed from the zoo, they were interviewed.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that the sense of urgency and the desire to share images taken were "strongly scripted into the role of the tourist". Participants, who were not allowed to share anything on social media, expressed their disappointment in not being able to share their experiences with others immediately. One of the reasons for this was not receiving as many likes on their photos when posting them after the event, instead of during it to "cash in" on more exposure.
Furthermore, one of the participants also felt she did not truly experience it because nobody else had "participated" by seeing it happen in real time:
I sort of feel like if we don’t share the photos it’s like a tree fell down in the forest and no one heard it, like, we’ve had this amazing experience and if I don’t share them, then no one’s going to know that we had this experience, you know, apart from us.
It appears that we don't merely use photography as a way to remember a certain moment or part in our lives but it has become a social experience, one that makes us feel like we are thoroughly engaging with the environment. The Guardian also comments that this is creating a tension where the need for digitally sharing visual content of our experiences is up against the actual individual partaking in the activity. It is a relationship that is not likely to shift anytime soon, and as such tourists' digital needs are to be addressed in order to maintain and regulate more sustainable traveling. For example, some ideas put forward by the study participants include setting up phone charging stations or encouraging people to take part in photo competitions. Conversely, unplugged experiences or activities could boost face-to-face engagement.
How do you feel about taking photos and instantly sharing them on your trips? Do you prefer to leave your camera at home and smartphone in your pocket while enjoying your holidays?