The social media tourist gaze: social media photography and its disruption at the zoo

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This article presents an account of the social media tourist gaze. It does this by reporting on a qualitative exploratory study that considers the use of photography and its dissemination on social media while participants stayed overnight at a zoological park. To examine the impact of photography and social media, our study separated participants into two groups: those we asked to refrain from posting on social media and those whom we placed no restrictions on while undertaking this overnight tourist experience. Results indicate that participants experienced heightened levels of connection with tourist activities and increased interactions between participants who were refraining from social media use. But participants also indicate some consternation and difficulty associated with social media abstention. Our contribution provides an understanding of the impact of the social media tourist gaze which suggests that photography has become a critical instrument for sharing experiences within tourism contexts. Tension appears ever present between a need to capture tourist experiences for digital dissemination on the one hand, and engage in the tourist activity itself, which suggest that tourist contexts and providers may need to explore better ways to manage both face-to-face and digital involvements that travellers increasingly feel compelled to perform.




Walsh, M. J., Johns, R., & Dale, N. F. (2019). The social media tourist gaze: social media photography and its disruption at the zoo. Information Technology and Tourism, 21(3), 391–412.

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