Apparently, according to some scientists, all the tourists I saw taking selfies with their iPads of the Mona Lisa when I went to Paris (humblebrag) were actually enjoying their vacation more than I was.
Now, that isn't a huge surprise, since I spent 75 percent of my week in Paris hungover, but anyway, these results are still pretty peculiar and counterintuitive.
After all, there are few pleasures less frequented than the elitist insulting of people who post on Instagram too much and have their phones out at concerts (please see the paragraph above where I made fun of Mona Lisa tourists for a good example of this condescending behavior). And a new study by the American Psychological Association directly threatens that perfect excuse to be judgmental.
The study, which involved more than 2,000 subjects, had people go out and have various, standard touristy experiences.
Half the subjects were told to take photographs of what they were doing, and the other half was told to just experience them the all natural way (with eyeballs and neural receptors). At the end, both groups then had to rate how much they liked the experience.
The people who took pictures, apparently, rated the experience higher.
The scientists in charge of the study (who probably set out to prove the opposite) believe that this is because you are more in the present and pay closer attention when you are photographing what is happening.
Some exceptions to these results, the study points out, are 1) if the camera is too big, people don't have as much fun, 2) if they don't like what they are doing, they like it less if they are taking pictures and 3) if the picture taking interrupts some active experience they are having (pottery class, for example), it's not as fun. These are all pretty obvious, I'd say.
But overall, according to the study, people taking pictures say they had a better time.
Now, the way I see it, there are several possible explanations for these results: being forced to go do touristy stuff for a psych study probably feels pretty weird, but having something to do (take pictures) affords participants with some manner of control over the circumstance, thereby allowing them to have more fun.
The other explanation is that we have been taught by our addictions to social media that a vacation is a valuable experience if it provides a bounty of Instagramable content. That content is then used to crowdsource whether or not the vacation is good/impressive. And if your peers approve of the vacation, it kind of feels like they are approving of you. Which, of course, feels good and makes you happy with the experience.
Maybe we've just learned to enjoy ourselves on vacation in this way. But the question then becomes, is there a better, more valuable or visceral way of going on vacation/experience new things? And how can we get into that mindset instead of focusing on the Instagramability of our experience?
But really, who the fuck knows? Do what you want.