The Great Vacation #Selfie War: Parents vs. Teens
Teens taking selfies by Tower Bridge in London (Photo: NR Acampamentos/Flickr)
By Beth J. Harpaz
Jacquie Whitt’s trip to the Galapagos with a group of teenagers was memorable not just for the scenery and wildlife, but also for the way the kids preserved their memories. It was, said Whitt, a “selfie fest.”
For this generation, “digital devices are now part of the interpretive experience,” said Whitt, co-founder of Adios Adventure Travel.
Indeed, many parents love seeing their kids taking selfies and posting to social media when they travel. It shows “they are engaged and excited about where they are and what they are doing,” said Susan Austin, a photographer and Iowa mom. “To some, it might be bragging, but I think it’s more about a way today’s teens connect with and feel part of a group.”
But some adults think there’s a downside to vacation selfies. They see them as narcissistic distractions that can detract from the travel experience. And they point to controversial examples — like a smiling selfie from Auschwitz posted to Twitter — as proof of the potential for poor judgment when young travelers use social media.
In addition, when traveling teens spend time taking selfies, “they’re so busy documenting, I wonder whether they’re actually experiencing it,” said Peg Streep, who writes about psychology and millennials. “What should be an experience of learning and growth instead just says, ‘Look at me.’ It’s a narcissistic moment that’s really about getting likes.”
Streep pointed to a study by Linda Henkel of Fairfield University in Connecticut that found museum visitors remember more about what they’ve seen if they don’t take photos of the objects they’re viewing. That suggests that any type of picture-taking can take “you out of the moment of the experience and shifts your attention.”
A teen takes a selfie during the Holi festival in India (Photo: Pabak Sarkar/Flickr)
Another concern is practical. A real-time selfie from a far-off place tells the world you’re not home. Leora Halpern Lanz, of Long Island, New York, loves it when her three kids take vacation selfies because it’s their way “of validating where they were.” But they’re not allowed to post images until the trip is over: “I don’t need their friends or friends of friends knowing the house is empty.”