Media -- especially social media -- makes the jet-setting life of a traveler seem more glamorous than it really is, researchers argue in a new paper from the University of Surrey. Facebook updates and Instagrams make a splashy show of miles traveled, places lived and iconic spots visited, but they're constantly ignoring the darker side of things: When was the last time your traveling friends posted about insomnia due to flight anxiety, or feeling out of sync with family members back home?
"It's quite interesting how certain issues are pushed aside (on social media)," Stefan Gössling, one of the paper's authors, told The Huffington Post. "On Facebook, there are no discussions about all of the problems with travel."
The paper brings together studies on all sorts of issues related to frequent travel. Medically, big-time travelers risk increased radiation exposure and incessant jet lag, while other studies show that parents who are frequent fliers have markedly different relationships with their children. And long-time backpackers may find it more difficult to relate to places and people after a while because they've been overexposed to new environments, Gössling says.
You'd never guess that from our Instagrams.
Social networks cause us to build our identities around how much we travel, Gössling says. Facebook, for example, has built-in maps for places you've visited. There are maps for cities you've lived in. There are status updates and photo albums and check-ins that, as Gössling and his partner see it, glorify the ability to cover large distances in short amounts of time.
"We always talk about how travel is good, how it connects people," he said. "But the problems should be discussed, too."
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