Apr 25th, 2018, 03:16 PM

The Social Media Travel Bubble

By Sage Theiss Sakata
Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata
Cannes beyond the luxurious beaches and boats.

The traveler's experience has changed drastically with the modern landscape of social media. Being constantly bombarded with travel images on their feeds, they come to an understanding of a place through the scrolling of images. In the past, people relied on maps - arriving somewhere and aimlessly roaming the streets while tracing their finger across the page. Today, the traveler experiences a place before embarking on their trip as they scroll through the posts from their friends' recent vacations. This has completely changed the way travelers plan their trips, and now they often find themselves stuck in a "social media travel bubble."


Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 

Along the glossy blue coast of the French Riviera lies the resort town of Cannes. Billion dollar yachts surround the docks, and palm trees line the famous Boulevard de la Croisette. The grand boulevard curves along the coast, filled with luxury boutiques and five-star restaurants. The city is filled with luxury. Cannes is also framed by the Cannes Film Festival, an annual film festival held every year previewing new films and documentaries. The festival accomplishes no less than filling the resorts with celebrities and extravagant celebrations. The warm touristy seasons bring about crowded beaches and good business for the luxury stores. This is what Cannes is all about -or at least that is how it's portrayed on social media. 

There are five different stages of travel: dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing and sharing. With the digital revolution, large resorts and popular destinations try to visually reach consumers through social platforms. As many often lose themselves scrolling through high-quality photographs of exotic beaches, they find themselves in a travel dream. As travelers are exposed to social media all day, their everyday platforms are influencing their travel experiences from dreaming to sharing. Nineteen-year-old AUP student, Nora Cramer, explains that while social media doesn't dictate her travel destination, it affects what she does when she gets there. She realizes that she is often led into tourist traps that rob her of a more authentic experience of a place. "One app that can be dangerous is Pinterest because, after clicking on a link like '10 Things You Have to Do in Thailand,' it suggests related articles that might interest you which causes an almost inescapable circle of information with no reliability," she says. As social media facilitates dreams and apps, such as Pinterest, seem to dictate people's traveling plans, how much of a city is explored by the traveler?

Chasing the luxury experience seen on social media, the traveler remains in the experience set forth by other friends or travel agencies. While major resorts dominate the shorelines of the resort town, a bubble is created for the traveler offering their sought-after travel experience. While this may offer comfort to the traveler, Cannes can be explored beyond busy Boulevard de la Croisette. Walking towards Le Vieux Port, you will find Marché Forville on the intersection of Rue du Dr Pierre Gazagnaire and Rue du Marché Forville. The large pink structure is filled with stalls containing fresh produce, cooked meals made in front of you, handmade local delicacies, and boutiques of flowers. Besides the abundance of seasonal food, antique dealers often come to the market to sell books and other goods which can be bargained for. If you weave through the stalls and make your way to the center of the market, you will find a stall selling homemade tapenade. After filling your bag with findings from the market, make your way to the trails leading towards La Croix-des-Gardes. 


Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 
 

Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 
 

Many don't know that Cannes has 136 acres of public forest. The woodlands trail towards La Croix-des-Gardes borders the seaside, bringing the best view in Cannes. The walk to the district of La Croix-des-Gardes takes you through windy roads of peaceful neighborhoods filled with beautiful old homes. Walking just 20 minutes into the neighborhood, you will notice that you're in a completely different part of Cannes than you were familiar with. At the top of the hill overlooking the entire grounds is a large monumental white cross made in 1990 by the artist Jean-Yves Lechevallier. Overlooking the entire city from this hill provides a completely different view of it- away from luxurious and towards nature-oriented.


Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 
 
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Image Credit: Sage Theiss Sakata 
 

Travel experiences filtered as images on social platforms act as true inspiration for modern travelers. This limits the traveler from having an experience-based understanding of a place and instead leaves them concerned with an engagement that only takes place on their phones. The posting and sharing obsession is released onto the platform for thousands to see, and therefore thousands to follow: a vicious cycle. According to a study, 52% of [Facebook] users surveyed said their friends' photos inspired travel plans, and 76% post their vacation photos to social networks. Cramer shares that she likes to hit as many touristy spots as possible when on vacation. "I think it has to do with the feeling of missing out if I don't get to see the sites the city is famous for," mostly "due to all the amazing I see on my friends' or favorite bloggers' social media accounts," she says. FOMO, or "fear of missing out," play out on social media every day. Reportedly, 56% of social media users suffer from FOMO every day. Before concluding that travelers will never be able to experience a place in a deep, personal and meaningful way, Cramer explains that that social media is not always a negative tool for the traveler. "Social media can take you to really cool places I would have never known about and allows you to have photos that will last a lifetime," she says.  Perhaps, what's most important is awareness. 

Today, travelers are living in an environment where social media is more and more integrated into their daily lives. Constantly being connected with others who share their travel photos across different platforms effects the traveler's behavior. Unfortunately, what is often shared on social media is a one-sided and touristic image of a place. By setting forth on a trip with eagerness to experience different parts of the cities, the traveler can have a more diversified experience. While Cannes is a city filled with luxurious beaches and boats, it is also filled with local markets, where one can eat traditional delicacies, and woodlands to hike throughout. While stepping out of the travel bubble might lead to more media users experiencing FOMO, it will aid towards a more holistic travel experience. Social platforms facilitate inspiration and connection to their users, however, the traveler should be encouraged to achieve a diversified experience beyond the pleasures of a documented experience on their favorite platform.