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  • Writer's pictureThe Beacon Today

Traveling in the age of social media

A train to Pisa, Italy, brought a group of traveling American students to the Leaning Tower of Pisa where they noticed something everyone had in common regardless of their culture.

The perimeter of the landmark was occupied by people balancing on a fence to get a selfie with the tower. All around, friends directed each other to lean to the left or right to create the illusion that they were holding up the tower themselves.

“[Social media] changed the way we experience things,” Danielle Bartolotta, an American student studying abroad in Italy, said. “People living through their phones and experiencing things through the lens of their camera instead of just taking the moment -- it's all about

getting the right picture.”

Bartolotta said the ability to take a photo with the tower to post online increases the popularity of the tourist destination.

Lauren Fritz, a social media user and traveler, watched the scene of tourists not fully experiencing the moment of travel and using it as an opportunity to take a photo to post.

“People compare to others what everybody else is doing,” Fritz said. “It’s bad when people think that they're seeing the whole side of someone's life rather than everything.”

Social media can inspire other people to make plans to travel themselves, but it can also mislead those at home.

“The sharing of photos and videos on social media means a practically endless stream of others’ experiences that can potentially fuel feelings that they are missing out on life – whilst others enjoy theirs – and that has been described as a ‘highlight reel’ of friends’ lives,” according to a Royal Society for Public Health report.

“[Social media] absolutely causes social comparison, and I think that’s definitely a bad thing for people's mental health,” Bartolotta said. “Instagram is a highlight reel and you just see the good that’s happening in people's lives, and it can make you feel worse about your own life or feel like you have to constantly be living a certain way.”

Some social media users have taken their passion for traveling to another level. Their posts inspire and promote the travel experience by taking their audience with them.

According to The Washington Post, “[social media] influencers have helped make travel more accessible, more informed and more popular — international arrivals increased to 1.4 billion people in 2018, two years earlier than the World Travel Organization predicted in 2010.”

Chloe Ebbrecht, a college sophomore, said social media can be bad if people take it too seriously. However, Ebbrecht recognized the positive power that social platforms have to persuade people to go out and explore the world.

By Heather Chiles

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