• Aussies might be missing meaningful holiday moments because we're too busy taking selfies. (Getty Images)
It used to be that visiting an iconic place or landmark on your holiday was an experience to be absorbed. Now it’s all about getting the perfect selfie, even if that means missing the best moments of your trip.
By
Jo Hartley

12 Jun 2017 - 10:55 AM  UPDATED 12 Jun 2017 - 11:06 AM

Selfies. It’s a word that even your grandma knows, and an activity as regular as drinking your morning coffee. Our Facebook newsfeeds are filled with them, and the danger of losing an eye to a selfie stick is very real.

Yet, a selfie obsession has swept the world. A study by Time.com ranked Tel Aviv, Manhattan, Milan and Petaling Jaya in Malaysia in the top 10 most popular spots for taking a selfie. Taking out the top prize was Makati city in the Phillippines.

But we can’t blame the rest of the world for being addicted to selfies. According to research commissioned by the Singapore Tourism Board, us Aussies are also being distracted from enjoying international holiday moments because we are too busy taking photos and posting them on social media sites.

One-in-four parents admit to spending too much time trying to create the ‘perfect holiday picture’ for social media.

Australian families were recorded as taking an average of 77 photos a day when on holidays. The 2016 Australian Holiday Memories Report shows that one-in-four parents admit to spending too much time trying to create the ‘perfect holiday picture’ for social media. Meanwhile, over half of all families take photos to collate and look at on Facebook and Instagram, with mums more likely than dads to be the photo perpetrator.

So rather than absorbing our environment, we seem to be absorbed in creating the perfect photo. The result? We might be failing to enjoy the moment or even relive it later – something another study refers to as the ‘photo-taking impairment effect’.

But it’s not just posing for those arm length, perfectly angled and filtered selfies that impacts our holidays. It’s photo taking in general.

A UK study found that parents admit that their holiday photo-taking meant missing out on family activities and fun, while also limiting their holiday memories.

Benieke Treverton relates to this, after she accidentally left her camera on the plane on an overseas trip. 

“Much to my husband’s chagrin, it turned out to be a pivotal moment,” Treverton say. “I fully expected to feel lost without my equipment, but instead it taught me a real lesson.

“Without the distraction of a device and worrying about ‘capturing it all’, I could really be present. There was just one flaw! I wished I had some photos to remember the experience by.”

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It was this flaw that led to Treverton and her husband founding their international photography business, Wanderloud. With local photographers in 25 destinations and counting they provide holiday-makers with beautiful photos, but also a digital detox.  

“Travellers can relax, put their phones down and, please, leave the selfie stick at home. Everyone will be in the picture, and people won’t even need to pack a camera (radical, we know),” says Treverton.

Treverton says that holidays should be well-deserved breaks for both body and mind, and memories shouldn’t be captured by hundreds of photos taken from the same angle.

“Without the distraction of a device and worrying about ‘capturing it all’, I could really be present. There was just one flaw! I wished I had some photos to remember the experience by.”

“Photos can be powerful memory-enablers, but [a photo featuring] just a group of people with the hint of the Eiffel Tower in the background, or an inkling that you might be at Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo is not quite the same.”

It was Wanderloud’s approach that appealed to Jessamyn Umali and her husband, when they travelled to Tokyo with their baby earlier this year.

“It's nearly impossible to get a photo with all the family in and I think it's difficult to take a selfie that's beautifully framed and shows the country you’re travelling in,” says Umali.  “[By doing it this way], I managed to get some cool, candid, professional holiday photos that I’d never have been able to take myself.”

“It's nearly impossible to get a photo with all the family in and I think it's difficult to take a selfie that's beautifully framed and shows the country you’re travelling in."

Umali says that the pictures captured everything she loves about Japan, and the experience was enhanced by having a local photographer who took them to the lesser known areas to explore.

“Knowing that I had my beautiful family holiday photos meant that I could really immerse myself in the rest of my itinerary.  I didn't have to keep thinking about taking the perfect shot, because it had already been done.”

So, maybe there’s a lesson in this for all of us. Seeing a country through your lens isn’t the same as seeing it through your eyes, and the only filter that lets you live in the moment is called ‘reality’. Can’t find that one on your phone? Try looking in your mind. 

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