OK, let's start this with a quick game. The game is called "Spot the Cool Place" and the instructions are pretty much in the title. Here we go:
- A Mitre 10 in Canberra
- Any place in the UK that's not London
Did you answer "Cuba"? Then congratulations! You are correct and you intrinsically understand the nuances of this story. And that's because some places are cool (as you know) while other places are not (you totally got that too!), and visiting cool places looks good on Instagram. Not only that, but predicting which places look the best on Instagram influences how much people like you will visit them. And there's a study to prove it.
The survey comes courtesy of the University of Georgia, where researchers quizzed 758 people on their desire to visit Cuba. Of all the destinations, Cuba was chosen because of its recent availability to US tourists. Because the country has been locked up for so long it's widely considered an authentic travel experience, but only in the short term. As the study highlights, "the narrative 'see Cuba before it becomes 'Mcdonaldized' has been internalized by masses of American tourists."
With this in mind, researchers quizzed respondents on whether they would like to visit sometime in the next year, the next five years, or the next 10. And then people were asked several questions about their travel motivations based on the timeframe they selected. And the answers were telling: People wanting to see Cuba in the coming year were far more likely to be motivated by the promise of "likes" on social media, whereas people content to wait another 5-10 years had more of an interest in the country itself.
As the reaserches rather dryly noted: "the symbolic value of social media posts about travel experiences has a greater influence on intentions to travel in the short-term compared to the long-term."
They suggested such findings were useful to travel agencies as "destinations with high social media potential could take advantage of the 'bandwagon effect' and the 'snob effect' as they wax and wane in popularity."
So there you go. In a roundabout kind of way, your sense that people who post selfies in Phuket don't know what's up has been vindicated by science. But then all your activewear snaps from Machu Picchu have been shown to be transparent, narcissistic, and pathetic… so maybe you lose as well.