Instead of Ruining Travel, Is Instagram Actually the Best Thing That Ever Happened to It?

In which we flip the script on the the popular theory.

We often hear about ways that social media is ruining travel — or at least changing it in seriously weird ways — and we cringe at the habits of the most basic of users over here too. But is there anything that Instagram has done travel that is actually worth celebrating?

Well, yes: It's inspiring a section of Americans, sometimes loathe to travel as a group, to actually travel more.

Consider this: It's an oft-lamented fact that less than half of Americans own a passport. That being said, recent statistics are more encouraging: The number of passports issued per year by the United States is increasing at quite a quick rate — up from 15,556,216 in 2015 to 18,676,547 in 2016, the biggest increase in number since 2006 to 2007. Most recent statistics available found that 38 percent of Americans now hold a passport, (it was 27 percent in 2007) which is an all-time high (but still significantly lower than in, say, Canada, Australia or the U.K).

Americans seem to want to travel more than ever before, but why? Here are three reasons that make the case for Instagram.

1.  It's an endless source of inspiration.

One reason could be the envy-inducing impact of scrolling through Instagram. A search for "Instagram travel accounts" reveals a trove of articles that speak to the "inspiring"- or "wanderlust"-inducing nature of the writer's favorite 'grammers. A study by the Blitz Agency found that 84 percent of millennials and 73 percent of non-millennials are likely or very likely to plan a trip based on someone else's travel photos or social media updates. (And that's a lot!) While stuck at your office on a Wednesday afternoon, it's far easier to be willed into acting upon your wanderlust by simply picking up your phone than the publishers of travel guides could ever have dreamed of.

2.  It simplifies planning.

Speaking of travel guides, with airline baggage restrictions harsher than ever, many travelers are ditching those heavy books altogether. But that's not the only reason: Late last year Instagram rolled out its bookmark feature, which allows you to save posts of places you want to visit. You can even build collections — of places to go, scenic spots, cute coffee shops, et cetera — creating your own, up-to-date personalized travel guides... right in the palm of your hand.

3.  It can make it easier to meet people.

Social media has broken down so many barriers. You can talk to celebrities on Twitter, stalk exes on Facebook, and meet new people on Instagram. If you were ever afraid of traveling because you didn't want to be alone in a strange place — get scrolling. Find the same users photos coming up often when you are researching their hometown? Why not leave a nice comment asking for a tip? Perhaps you can even arrange to meet for a quick coffee. Just don't be creepy about it.

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