Social media is part of our daily life now, either we welcome it or not. I see it more as a tool. Like a knife. It can be a kitchen knife, which helps you prepare a yummy dish or you can see it as a weapon, which hurts someone. I don’t think it’s inherently good or bad, but I know some think differently.
However, social media is so interactive and smart, and it comes with so little instructions that it’s difficult to identify what it means (and does) to us. And it affects all areas of our life, travel and leisure is just one of them.
So many options
First time I went abroad it was in 2004. I went to Greece with an organized tour, with a friend. I loved it and I discovered how much I love traveling. I was excited even to see that I’m crossing the border.
My friend and I had the old type of cameras, where you have a limited number of shots and you need to print them on paper to actually see them. We were spending a lot of time thinking how and when we should take the photos, not to “waste” any. We were enviously looking at the few people in our group who had digital cameras. It seemed so easy and perfect! We could have taken lots of photos, review and zoom each one of them and delete the bad ones!
I didn’t have a smartphone back then, nor wifi connection. All the stories from the trip had to wait till I got back home and shared them in person or chatted them from my PC, with the dial-up connection.
I’m sure the 14-year-old me would have loved to be able to take thousands of photos and send them over to my parents and friends, and share with them the adventures I’m living. It was just not an option at that moment.
Either we travel to a remote place, with the paper map, and without a phone, or we travel with a backpack full of the latest gadgets, it’s just a personal choices. Now we have more options to experiment travel than we had before, and everyone chooses the option that brings them the most enjoyment.
Different ways, same feelings
The same as everything, there are always different perspectives to look at travel and social media.
I’ve watched a video some time ago, saying that documenting your travel in detail means getting double winning. You enjoy the travel when you live it and then you re-live it several times afterward, through the digital lens. But the thing is, either it’s a photo, a paper journal or a souvenir, people always looked at ways to make their memories more vivid and to re-live them. It’s the same feelings, just different tools to make it happen.
There is also this idea, that if you use too much social media, you’re missing on living the moment. But what is that you exactly miss from the moment? Or, a better question, what is that you seek from the moment?
For example, I’m on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica. It looks so nice, I admire it for a bit, and then I think “Oh, my mom would love to see this!” I take out my phone and text to my mom, sending her photos.
And another one. Late evening with my friends in San Cristobal de las Casas. We’ve spent the whole day together, exploring the city and we’re just relaxing. One of my close friends back home is having a hard time, and she wants to chat about it. I take my phone out and keep texting, while my friends continue to talk.
Missing on the moment
My “theory” is that you don’t actually “miss” on anything because you shape the moment as you feel. And you switch between physical/virtual depending on your feeling and needs. When traveling, you’re definitely not having fun 100% of the time. Even if you say you did, well, let me doubt that.
If your travel purpose is to disconnect from everything, by all means, do so. But if not, you still want to hear from your dear ones at home, what they are doing, share stories with them and so on. And that’s totally fine.
I know some see spending too much time on social media as a bad thing, as it gives addiction. Now there are apps that monitor your use of social media and you can set targets to restrict yourself. But by simply doing it, isn’t it increasing its influence?
I think in the future we will hear a lot more about it. The same we hear a lot about diets, what to eat, how much to exercise etc, we will hear the same about social media use/abuse.
Yes, there will always be people who overdo it. That doesn’t make social media bad. There are also people who drink too much alcohol, shop too hard or watch too much tv. And yet, we don’t blame the bottle of vodka, the stores or the tv. But we blame Facebook, that evil app, stay away from it!
Technology and social media addiction is already an issue, but it’s more children and teens who are going through treatment. As for adults, it’s interesting to see that there are socially accepted addictions like smoking and drinking, just because they’ve been long on the market. So it’s cool to smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and lose track of how many coffees you’ve had, but it’s not cool to spend too much time on social media.
Somebody who “can’t survive” without coffee is criticizing me for not enjoying the day without Facebook. Let’s say just that I am waiting for the day when social media becomes an acceptable addiction, and it’s almost there. I’ll be cool then 😊
Planning a trip is now easier than ever. There is so much information available online, that it enables you to plan a trip to an unknown country to the smallest of the details. By the time you get there, you already know where to buy food, how to get to your accommodation and the bus schedule for the next day.
Also, before traveling, you can easily find on social media people who went where you’ve been, chat with them, share your questions/fears and get valuable information and support.
Some might say it kills the joy of exploring the unknown. Well, you can always not plan it in advance, not check photos and articles online and not use any travel apps.
For me, the fact that you can easily find someone who’ve been where you are going and gives you straight answers to what you need is the equivalent to premium support that a travel agency could (hardly) give. And it’s free.
Travel and social media
I do agree that travel is massively present on social media. Even people who don’t usually post, they post more when they are traveling somewhere. Why?
There can be various reasons. It can be because you are doing something out of your routine and it’s amazing, you want to share with others what you see and experience or you want to show others you’re having a great time. Because that’s expected, you’re on holiday!
But it doesn’t matter the reason so much, as long as it makes you happy and it doesn’t harm anybody.
On the other side of the screen though, there is the reader. Let’s say, you probably have 500+ friends on Facebook. You are not particularly excited about your daily routine. You search on Google some information about holidays, thinking of your next one. Then you check your newsfeed on Facebook, when “it happens” that everybody is on holiday, having a great time, posting awesome photos, and you’re just sitting in front of your computer. So lame. You don’t think about the other 450 friends who do the same, you are busy envying the 50 ones who don’t. The 50 ones who happen to be on holiday that day. And maybe won’t have another one like that for the rest of the year. But social media is evil, don’t do the maths.
One thing the reader fails to realize is that newsfeed is shaped based on his/her information, what they search, what they buy, their online activity. It’s scary how intuitive it is, “newsfeed-ing” you towards misery or excitement.
Through my lens
As you may have guessed by now, I like both travel and social media. My newsfeed is invaded with posts about friends going on holidays and photos from exotic destinations. And I’m at my desk, with my hair wet from the rain, my broken umbrella on the left, embracing a cup of tea and complaining about the awful weather.
It makes me smile to see photos of friends having fun. If they are going to an amazing place, I want to know more about it and add it to my list. If I’m on a sad day, I imagine myself traveling somewhere nice or taking that perfect photo.
It’s because I think I can do everything I want, just not at that specific moment. My friend is currently in Myanmar, posting incredible photos. I don’t think “Lucky guy, miserable me”, I think “Where’s my wish list? I HAVE to add Myanmar to it.”
Another friend is posting about herself in a luxurious pool in Dubai. I think “She looks great and I love that photo. Maybe I should pose like her. I don’t need to go to Dubai for that though.”
There are endless examples, but what I want to say is that there is a reason why you like or envy what you see on social media and you can turn it into something that makes you feel better or worse.
Travel blogging and social media
One of the reasons I didn’t want to become a full-time travel blogger is because it can take the joys away. Nowadays, writing genuine articles is only a small part of blogging. It’s more to do with being active on social media, grow up your numbers.
Usual topics on travel bloggers’ groups: “I put in a lot of effort, but Instagram numbers won’t increase”, “Facebook doesn’t like hashtags, but loves videos”, “How to get more traffic from Pinterest” etc.
I don’t have much presence on social media because I’m lazy. Sometimes I like it more, sometimes I can’t be bothered. The thing is, it’s a lot of work. Behind those numbers, it’s a lot of work, hours and sometimes money.
I wrote an article on my blog. I got 2 comments, maybe a few shares. I wrote on the same topic for a better blog, it got 25 (nice) comments, many more shares. The number would look even better on a bigger blog. The same me, same writing style, just “performing” on a better “stage”.
A travel photo, on an Instagram account with 100 followers is worth nothing. The same photo, on an Instagram account with 100k followers is worth hundreds of pounds. And you still wonder why bloggers spend so much time on social media…
Social media is a powerful wave and it hits our daily lives. Some ride it like a pro and make money from it, some feel like drowning and try to escape, some dive into it and enjoy the underwater scenery.
Travel is a huge topic on social media, but one can’t objectively tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s more of a personal choice. I would love to read your thoughts on this topic, feel free to comment below.