Wish you were here? Why updating social media on holiday is far fom a new trend

Wish you were here? Why updating social media on holiday is far fom a new trend

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According to research by T-Mobile in the UK, 60% British holidaymakers use social media to ‘boast’ whilst on holiday. They have even coined the blend ‘smoasting’ to describe this. Of course they don’t know that all of these updates are strictly-speaking boasts; they are simply status updates whilst on holiday.

Much reporting of this research has appeared to question why people do this, implying that there is something odd or unusual about this kind of behaviour. But as with many things, all that social media is doing in this instance is providing us a new way to do things that have long been normal to us.

We see this very same behaviour in countless tales of travels and voyages shared round fires and over food no doubt since human life began. We see it in the 14th century work of Italian scholar Petrarch who wrote of his ascent of Mount Ventoux in France, describing the journey to the summit and the views over the Rhone to the bay of Marseilles. And we see it in every postcard sent from holiday to friends and relatives back home.

Social media has not created a completely new behaviour, it has just facilitated a behaviour we have long exhibited. But whereas previously our ‘updates’ from holiday were after the event (often a long time so), limited in their reach and one-way in nature, we can now this in real time, as often and to as many people as we choose, and people can interact with us. Our desire to update people of our travels has not changed, but the ways in which we can do this are fundamentally different.

And it is these changes that are interesting to watch and to investigate more.

  • Are we more likely to update with pictures when we are on holiday than normal? Replicating the traditional postcard with a photo on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
  • Are we updating more often or less often than we might otherwise? And how does this change by social channel?
  • Are we more broadcast and less engaging? Happy to update people but wanting to ‘get away’ from the engagement and discussions we might usually involve ourselves in.

It is how our use of social media varies on holiday (as opposed to in our more everyday usage) that is of interest. To those of us who study this behaviour as well as for travel brands looking to explore how they can capitalise upon the behaviour itself.

But one thing is certain, the desire to update people of our travels and experiences away from home is not new, social media allows us a new way to do this just as the postcard did in the 19th century. And I’m sure that if it had existed in the 1330s, Petrarch might have shared an update or photo of the views he saw from the top of Mount Ventoux.

As a postscript, I am writing this from an airport lounge waiting for a flight home, you can find my own ‘smoasting’ @mattrhodes or on Instagram.

Photo credit: Sun Rise by Steven | Alan