In recent years, selfie sticks have become a very popular product throughout the globe. Since its inception, it became clear that mobile phones had changed the way we traveled. The ubiquitous nature of social media allows tourists to produce content as they travel their destinations to the joy of their audiences, which can enjoy it virtually live.
We used to show the slides to the nearest ones and kept photos and postcards as precious souvenirs. Now, we share the images and selfies of our vacation from land, sea and air, expanding «the look of the tourist» to include the remote public that is your home in the traveler experience.
Is it worth going on Instagram?
Travel has ceased to be a solitary quest to become a «social event» and, as such, observation has been irretrievably associated with photography. Taking photos, using the camera to see and experience new places is the norm.
Tourists take selfies that present both the stage and people in a way that is pleasant and positive from an aesthetic point of view. In fact, the instagramability of a destination is one of the main motivations of the youngsters to move to the place in question, although filters and mirrors are used to create an image that is far from reality.
This way of approaching the holiday alters the relationship between tourists and their social networks in three significant ways: between tourists and the inhabitants of the destination, between tourists and people who follow them from home and among the tourists themselves.
The rush to share the images obtained during travel carries certain risks. An Australian couple was arrested and subsequently released apparently for flying a drone without the relevant permission.
Numerous tourists were victims of scarnium in nets by piling up to take selfies on the sacred uluru monolith in Australia before their climb was banned for visitors.
It is worth noting the sad history that hides after the growing popularity of the Mountain Vinicunca or Montaña Arcoíris, in the Peruvian Andes, among the travelgrammers: it has become a coveted destination because climate change has melted its peaks, previously filled with snow.
Measuring the effects
To understand how social media photographs affect the travel experience, we undertook an exploratory study with night visits to a zoo surrounded by a luxurious setting.
We divided the 12 participants into two groups: one was forbidden to hang photographs on social networks, although they were allowed to take snapshots; the second group, for its part, had no restrictions on sharing images with its followers that they deemed appropriate. Although the sample was not too large, we got quality information about the ability to enjoy and the attitude they showed.
Participants were accommodated at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge hotel in Canberra, Australia. The costs of the visit were borne by the researchers (the hotel did not sponsor the studio and the stay at its facilities was standard, without any added luxury). After leaving the zoo, we conducted the interviews in order to get to know in depth the opinions of individuals about the lived experience.
The results confirmed that the desire to share images in real time is strongly rooted within the role of the tourist, to the point that it alters the way travelers connect with the places they visit, as well as modifies their sense of urgency by communicating with their followers.
If there’s no photo, it didn’t happen
Mandy and Amy were in the group that was not allowed to hang photos in nets while at the zoo. Both said they were disappointed to learn of the ban, although the order seemed to stimulate their ability to enjoy the moment.
Interviewer: Did you look at your social networks during the visit or did you force yourself not to?
Mandy: Yes, I took a look, but I didn’t pay as much attention as I usually would. I don’t even think I commented on any posts.
Amy: Even after climbing something (after the visit to the zoo) about the things we’ve done today and seeing that few people have liked it, I feel a certain disappointment. It’s like saying, «Jo, no one else has reacted to what I’ve posted.» The previous 24 hours didn’t happen to us that (because of the experiment), because nobody knew anything about it.
There is a perennial struggle between taking photos and enjoying the experience. ShutterstockThe yearning for recognition on social media continued after leaving the zoo. In Michelle’s case, posting her feelings after the visit raised new concerns:
Interviewer: How did you feel that you can’t climb anything?
Michelle: It was a stick. Personally, not being able to publish what I saw has been a negative experience because I wanted to teach people what we were doing while we were doing it.
Also, a couple of people knew that we were going to the zoo and that we couldn’t use the nets, so when I upload what I’ve seen they’re going to say something like, «It’s been holding on and now it’s going up. What a weird thing.» You know, put it up after it’s happened. Normally, everyone shares anything as they live it.
Afterwards, Michelle also commented that repressing herhers when sharing her experiences on social media undermined the experience:
I feel like if I don’t share the pictures, it’s like a tree fell in the middle of the forest and nobody heard it. We have had a wonderful experience, but if we do not share it, no one will know except us.
Numerous video tutorials with suggestions from travelgrammers populate the network. The spotlight
Digital photography and social media transform the relationship between the traveler and his audience because the traveler has expanded and has therefore potentially diversified.
Selfies in tourist contexts, rather than exposing the tourist’s gaze, serve as a mirror for this. The perfect digital postcard is centralist, as evidenced by a research participant:
Shannon: It almost seems like something you’d expect when you’re sightseeing. In fact, on some occasions some tour guide has been disappointed when he saw that we did not take photos.
Photography has gone from having a memoristic purpose to forming a way to share a live experience. The tension is now between the need to immortalize experiences to share them in networks and commitment to the activity itself. Censoring the desire to use photography as a means to communicate an experience will only increase this tension.
To ensure the sustainability of the sector and connect with their target market, tour operators must explore more effective ways to ensure that the customer enjoys the experience while still sharing it with their followers.
Digital publications have evolved into a characteristic part of travel, and companies should promote sharing of experiences. Among the contributions suggested by our participants we find the installation of charging points for the phones and the holding of photographic competitions.
On the contrary, setting days or activities without mobiles could be a way to stimulate attention to the live experience. Tourists should also be made aware of the content they choose to share on their social networks.
Michael James Walsh, Assistant Professor Social Science, University of Canberra; Naomi F Dale, Associate Professor of Management, University of Canberra, and Raechel Johns, Head of the Canberra Business School and Professor of Marketing and Service Management, University of Canberra
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.