The Case Against Travel Selfies

Taking and posting travel photos too frequently stops you from experiencing your surroundings.
Taking and posting travel photos too frequently stops you from experiencing your surroundings.Carl Court / Getty

Getting a picture of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower won't ruin your trip to Paris, but experts and researchers agree that tourists's increased reliance on selfies to document ever aspect of a trip is spoiling their travel.

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While anecdotal stories paint selfies as an ultimate, albeit unfortunate, goal of travel for many — writer Walter Kirn detailed for the New York Times's T Magazine how his son's day on the ski slopes with friends was all about the videos they shot of themselves, not the actual skiing — a recent travel trends report from the Future Foundation and Amadeus IT group further delved into the sad reality of destinations and attractions being altered as travelers seek experiences that cater to social success on the likes of Facebook and Instagram. Traveling just to show where you are, instead of experiencing where you are, will result in travelers finding it more difficult to capture authentic memories and encounters.

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"Social media puts pressure on us to display our lives," says Dr. Arthur Markman, PhD, professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Texas-Austin and program director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program. "People have always gone on vacation and taken pictures to preserve the experience, but now it's immediate. You take the picture, you post it, and you monitor how it does on your social media outlets. It takes you out of any deeply engaging experience." Yes, we've long taken pictures to later relive an adventure, but we're well past the days of waiting days for your film to get developed. Now travel photos become a popularity contest. "[Selfies] causes you to look at yourself from the outside-in. You begin putting a third-person perspective on a first-person experience."

Selfies aren't only changing how we vacation, but also why. "If you see a Facebook picture of your friend at Victoria Falls or the Eiffel Tower or the Kremlin in Russia, you think that you would want to do that yourself simply that's because what your peers are doing," Markman says. 

Another twist for the selfie-obsessed traveler is that all those Instagrams and uploads make it harder to remember your trip. "If you are not engaged in your travel experience, you aren't going to have genuine memories of it," says Markman. "Your ability to remember is influenced by how deeply you process and think about something." In other words, the best way to not just experience your trip, but remember it, is to put your camera away. 

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