We might be ashamed to admit it, but a lot of us care deeply about the number of likes we rack up on Instagram. A new study suggests that we’re so influenced by how successful our social media game is, that it actually affects our decisions on where to travel.
The report explores the phenomenon of “social return” – where you get positive feedback on social media, which according to the study elevates your social status. Travel has huge potential for positive social return because, let’s face it, you’re more likely to get likes for beach pictures rather than snaps of the daily grind.
The report says that “travel has long been a conspicuous form of consumption,” citing historical examples of like the Grand Tour of Europe and Titanic’s maiden voyage. Essentially, showing off your travel is a way of showing off your social standing, and you look cooler if you’re in the right place.
Now with the rise of social media, the conspicuous consumption of travel has become even greater as you can Instagram or tweet your every move abroad.
The paper also introduces the “social return scale,” which judges the anticipated social return from travelling to a certain place. This particular study focused on Americans planning to go to Cuba. It was chosen because Americans have only recently been able to travel there, so it’s seen as a cool and edgy destination.
Researchers found that anticipated social return of going to Cuba was hugely significant in influencing whether people wanted to travel there. It was ultimately seen as cooler to go sooner rather than later, because then you’d be ahead of the curve.
Even though this particular study looked at one location, the researchers concluded that anticipated social media return has a great influence on travel decisions. However, there is a much greater short-term than long-term effect, purely because popularity of places changes so quickly and people don’t want to seem like they’re jumping on the bandwagon too late.
This research is just the beginning on the topic with just one location, and more will need to be done in the future. For now, we’re going to shamelessly hit up Instagram for travel inspiration.