Katie Pak’s Capstone Project—Social Media and Travel

Each year, more and more Millennial students are electing to travel abroad, sometimes in the form of a gap year (a la Malia Obama) or perhaps as part of a structured study abroad experience through their institutions or separate organizations. For our generation, social capital is based more on experiences had than material owned, and more importantly, one’s ability to prove they’ve had these experiences. With a perfectly-composed “candid” shot against a stunning natural or urban backdrop, a just-right filter, and a caption that says “I’m having an amazing experience but being casual about it because this happens every day for me,” young travelers contribute every day to an explosion of very specific, curated images saturating every corner of the internet. What is the impact—culturally, socially, and individually—of this phenomenon? With apps like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Airbnb, Hostelworld, etc., are travel-minded Millennials over-producing their experiences, and at what cost? What is a “true” travel experience, and how does the pursuit of a specific, quintessential experience promote certain imaginings of places and cultures and undermine others? These are questions I hope to provoke, explore, and attempt to answer in a project that will incorporate my personal experience traveling as well as a critical analysis of the impact of social media on travel.

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