Social media and seeing the world are two of my biggest passions in life. Being so deeply invested in both, it’s a real thrill to watch how both concepts continue to revolutionize and feed off of each other. But, having done business for so long and also being a stark realist, I’m fully aware there’s always a price to progress. So I have to ask: in the same way social media is adding to the art of wanderlust, could it also be taking away from it?
It’s important to first realize how dramatically the landscape has changed. These days, the majority of travelers use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to plan and inspire their getaways. In the U.S., social media generates $102.9 billion dollars annually in domestic tourism alone. That makes travel bloggers and platforms like TripAdvisor really important. They give people the license to dream big, because now creating any adventure just takes the click of a button. But as travel has become so easy to manage and accessible, perhaps it’s also becoming less magical.
The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail published an article last September that puts it all into perspective. Titled, “How social media has ruined backpacking through Europe”, the author talks about how technology can distract and subtract from an epic journey. On his most recent backpacking trek, he realizes:
“Young people were so directly connected to home that they were hardly away in any meaningful sense. The lack of connections we made with locals in any country no matter how much we tried. Instead of making us feel closer to a place … hostelling actually made us more insular, being with like-minded people became too comfortable.”
Now, I’m not sure I agree that that social media is totally to blame as the article’s title suggests. Globalization is also a big factor, considering traveling between continents and oceans isn’t as big a deal as it what 30 years ago. But that being said, I can still definitely see the author’s point. Creating a balance between social media and travel is something that I myself am constantly challenged with. The two may be inextricably linked, but I never want to miss a real moment or any of the magic, just because I was too busy playing on my smartphone.
Therefore, I think technology has to always be taken with a grain of salt. Websites like Airbnb, Couchsurfing and Hipmunk can be incredibly useful, improving the quality and cost of travel immensely. Meanwhile Facebook, Twitter and Instagram make it easy to keep those memories alive. But handling the technology, and making sure it only enhances the experience and doesn’t overtake it, is ultimately always up to the user a.k.a. you.
From all my travels around the world, I’ve realized there’s beauty out there everywhere. Let technology capture those moments, but never distract from them.