How Social Media Has (Negatively) Shaped the Way We Travel
Is it just me, or has travel become more and more popular over the last few years? I have noticed Facebook pages splattered with albums from Paris, Instagram profiles decorated with “artsy” photos of food dishes in Italy, and Twitter updates announcing study abroad programs, becoming the norm amongst my network of millennial generation “Friends”. This is great, and I have always aimed to encourage people to see the world. But, I have also noticed something disturbing about this trend that I myself admit to being guilty of at times.
By now we all know the downfalls associated with social media. And we know that social media does not depict an accurate representation of someone’s life, but acts merely as their highlight reel. We know this, but at times it is still difficult to remember. As we scroll through our feeds, we see people’s best and happiest moments. We see a friend’s trip to Europe, a colleagues new relationship, a cousin’s graduation, an acquaintance’s location update from Jamaica, and so on. Meanwhile, we have just finished another ordinary day, waiting for our next chance to share something big.
So what does this have to do with the increase in travelers?
Travel is a luxury that everyone is eager to display on their pages. It’s another update to share with the world about how glamorous and full of adventure their lives are. Plus, there’s just something about posting a picture whilst abroad that attracts followers like no other. Anytime I see a post associated with travel, it tends to garner well over 100 likes.
“Eye see you, from the London Eye!”, “Excuse my French, but I’m in France!” “Stonehenge rocks, dude!” “AmsterDAMN!”
Can’t forget about all of those witty captions people use.
As more young people begin to venture abroad, others begin to gain interest. And how could they not? It’s being glamorized and shoved in their faces through social media. So they book their tickets for next summer, and soon they’ll be on their way to being a part of the expanding travel-verse.
Great! More people becoming inspired to get out there and experience the world! I like this aspect of social media’s role in travel. But some things I have noticed about travelers these days makes me cringe, and I think social media is partly to blame.
I am dramatizing the issue a bit, so let’s be clear. I’m not saying people travel just to post about it. But I do think posting and sharing have become a huge aspect of traveling in recent years. And I don’t think that it’s a good thing.
People are ready to try a culture’s signature dish, talk to locals, explore off the beaten path areas of a city, or trek to the top of a mountain… IF they are also able to get a “post-worthy” view of the experience through their iPhone screen to then blast out to their followers. Sorry, but there’s no wifi in the Swiss Alps.
While I was out in London recently, I witnessed a girl ordering her friend to take multiple shots of her in front of Big Ben. “It needs to be perfect for Instagram!”, she whined. Immediately after the picture was deemed “perfect”, they were on to the next great Instagram photo location, selfie-stick in hand.
I’ve witnessed many similar exchanges between tourists throughout my many travels. They snap a photo in front of an icon like the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, and then they’re off before truly experiencing the foreign atmosphere. Nowadays, it only happened if there’s a photo to prove it.
It seems like people have become more concerned with quantity rather than the quality of their experiences. How many pictures did you take? How many likes did that one picture get? How many landmarks did you see? How many countries did you go to?
I admit, sometimes I pride myself on the fact that I have visited around 30 countries at the young age of 24. But I also admit that I have probably only TRULY experienced half of them. In order to really understand, appreciate, and experience a culture, it takes more than a day. Even if you have 100 pictures to prove you were there.
So, I think that was a bit of a rant. And I think I’m done…for now. The main point of this post was to push new travelers in the right direction, whichever direction it is they’re headed.
Focus on the quality of your adventure. Go a few days without your phone or camera. Really get into the moment without having to capture it through a screen. Not everything is worth photographing, but everything is worth observing.
Oh, and just because you are across the world, doesn’t mean the world has to know.