Have you ever been inspired to travel somewhere by a social media post? Maybe found a new destination for your bucket list, or even just admired a friend’s trip via the photos they’ve posted? A new study from Allianz Global Assistance reveals that most millennials (51%)—and three in every ten Americans total—feel that social media posts influence their own travel planning choices. This is probably not much of a surprise.
More surprising, maybe—and certainly more troubling—is another major finding to come out of Allianz’s 2018 Vacation Confidence Index, and that is this: a significant chunk of Americans use social media to deceive their followers. More than a third (36%) of surveyed millennials (18-34) identified as having, on at least one occasion, posted travel photos to social media with the specific intention of making their trips look better than they were. Among Gen Xers (35-54), 15% admitted to the same, and among Baby Boomers (55+) the number was just 5%. In total, 17% of Americans admitted to such intent.
If you ask me, there are gradients of maliciousness within that 36%. Adding a hefty filter to a photo of a gray day is not the same as Photoshopping yourself into a photo. But there are people who do Photoshop their photos, and there are people who abuse social media for their own gains—and this can have varying degrees of effect on the people on the receiving end. This is true in travel as much as it is in other spheres.
In March of this year, a U.K. blogger named Carolyn ran an experiment on her followers, posting a doctored photo of herself at Disneyland and writing that she had taken a trip there for her birthday. She later revealed that the whole thing had been fabricated to see how people would react. You can read more about that here. A lot of people, it seems, were fooled (and also appreciated the experiment).
It’s easy to see how the culture of Instagram might drive a person to stress about their public image and the way it’s curated. As someone who wields influence on social media, and who finds inspiration from others on social media, I understand that tools like Instagram can be helpful and used for good. I personally have never attempted to deceive my followers with my posts. But it’s important to know the risks of trusting the medium inherently. According to Allianz, 86% of Americans trust social media posts from people they know personally, 55% trust posts from brands, and 46% trust posts from media organizations/news outlets. A full 31% trust posts even from users they don’t know.
In the end, this is the world we live in, and so it’s important to know how to navigate it—including when making travel plans, and including when a trip isn’t going as well as you imagined it would.
“Social media changes the way we live, work, play and of course, travel. As millennials continue to lead trends, it will be interesting to see if social deception becomes a more common and even acceptable activity when portraying vacations to friends, family and followers,” says Dan Durazo, director of communications, Allianz Global Assistance USA. “Whether you plan to make your vacation look better than it was or not, the right travel insurance policy can protect you from the unexpected things that may go wrong—and your social media followers will never need to know that the trip wasn’t as perfect as it looked on Instagram.”
Disclaimer: Johnny Jet works as an ambassador for Allianz Global Assistance (AGA Service Company) and receives financial compensation.
For more information about Allianz Global, visit AllianzTravelInsurance.com.