I recently wrote an article for my school newspaper about the implications of social media on travel. This is not the sort of writing style I usually publish on my blog, however I thought I’d share it here anyway and see what you think!
“As I sat down on my Air Canada flight, Florida bound for reading week, I felt a sense of relief to be escaping the cold for a few days. Following the instructions of the flight attendant I reached into my carry-on to put my phone on airplane mode, relief was overcome by panic. I didn’t have my phone. I’d forgotten it and a number of thoughts began to circulate in my head. How would I stay in touch with my friends while I was away? Who would be waiting for a response? But most importantly, how could I share my vacation?
While the plane reached cruising altitude, the panic had subsided and I began to think about how ridiculous I was for being more concerned about not being able to share my vacation via Instagram and Snapchat than I was anything else. There is no doubt that the internet has revolutionized travel. For instance, For instance, instead of asking a stranger for directions we rely on google maps to find our way around a new city. We can look up all the best restaurants, attractions, and excursions. However, google maps isn’t the culprit here. Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are. The roots of the travel selfie run much deeper than simply snapping a photo that one day we will be able to look back on. Now memorializing a vacation takes time. We don’t capture the moment but crop, filter, tag and caption it. Collecting photos for the purpose of sharing them is ruining the travel experience for a number of reasons.
First, it doesn’t matter how much you enjoyed your own vacation, but rather how much other people “like” it. The worth of our vacations are measured by the number of likes our travel selfies accumulate. Second, there is this tendency to believe that if the vacation does not exist online, it ceases to exist altogether. The photos we take aren’t so that we can look back on them in the future, but instead to maintain an online footprint of the experience that matters only in the present. We rely so heavily on our social media selves to define who we are that even when we escape for a few days we have lost the affordance of being lost in the moment.
I think that Instagram and Snapchat are positive in that they allow us to inform our friends and family (our followers) how we’re enjoying our vacation. As well, Instagram can serve as a sort of travel guide whereby you can search a destination and see the kinds of experiences that have taken place. It is a forum for us to share and appreciate the beautiful places our world is composed of. It is only when we let peoples’ “likes” determine the quality of our trip that we have let social media ruin travel. When you are uploading a photo of every meal you eat, outfit you wear, or excursion you take, you know you need to spend less time looking through the lens of your camera.”