Longing to Be Elsewhere: Desired Environments from @NatGeoTravel

by baltringer

I’m an avid follower of the “NatGeo Travel” Instagram page, which posts a variety of high-quality pictures of travel-worthy destinations around the globe everyday. While most pictures match the quality and prestige of being included on the page, I wondered if there was a user preference for what type of picture will be liked more on a given day, and if describing a picture would have any impact on likability. Thus, my hypothesis is the following: users are more likely to like photos during the week if they consist of “unfamiliar” environments with longer descriptions, whereas they are more likely to like photos during the weekend if they consist of “familiar” locations with shorter descriptions. In this sense, “unfamiliar” would be the vacation-worthy locations that aren’t often visited by users on a normal basis, such as national parks or other unpopulated areas, and “familiar” would be environments that users are exposed to often, such as cities and beaches. Moreover, the length of the descriptions (word count) may be a factor in attracting users to unfamiliar locations to may need further context other than the image itself, and familiar locations may naturally need less explanation and therefore a shorter description. A variable that I used to help differentiate unfamiliar and familiar locations was the type of terrain highlighted in the photo. Additionally, I picked one post from each day from the last month on NatGeo’s page to ensure that I had a range of posts (and terrains) for each day of the week. Based on the data that I collected from 30 NatGeo posts, I noticed that familiar locations were liked more during the weekend. Moreover, such posts had shorter descriptions, ranging from 48 to 55 words per post. Meanwhile, unfamiliar locations received more likes during the week, particularly Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Those posts had a longer descriptions with a wider range of 60 to 110 words. The outlier would be Wednesdays, where familiar environments were slightly preferred over unfamiliar. In general, it appeared that posts with longer descriptions received less likes throughout the week other than Mondays and Thursdays (both for unfamiliar locations). Although it seems clear that familiar environments were more liked, perhaps more desirable, during the weekend, possibly when users weren’t in cities, the types of terrain that I categorized are still extremely broad in definition, making it difficult to assess the difference between familiar and unfamiliar locations. For instance, in the “oceans” category, some posts were from remote parts of the oceans, whereas others were along beaches. Would the ones along the beaches be considered familiar if users lived closer to them? In addition to to unclear categories, I realized that another issue is the way that I collected photos. Originally, I chose photos based on the day they were posted as well as the type of terrain they had (to increase terrain diversity), though I should’ve collected the most liked post from each day and considered patterns based on that. Finally, a large data set would be appropriate to assess the popularity of environments for each day of the week.

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