Photo Credit: PNW Production
Too Connected: Does Constantly Being On Your Devices Defeat The Purpose Of Travel?
If you’ve had the privilege of being able to travel all your life, you must be aware of how much has changed. Not due to COVID-19 and its variants (though they have certainly had impact), but how we go about documenting our travels, so we can look back on them fondly for years to come. While there is no question that we have it pretty great in our digital age, are we too connected at times? Are we preoccupied with taking photos of our every waking moment, and sharing them to social media for comments, new followers, and “likes?”
Some would say yes.
What we have to contend with now that previous generations didn’t, is trying to find a healthy balance between the technology and real life. Back in the day, when our grandparents were on vacation, cameras weren’t so ubiquitous as they are now. If they wanted to document a trip to the beach, they’d take pictures with a huge, cumbersome camera, and they had to wait for the film to be developed in a darkroom.
If grandma didn’t like the way her face looked in one picture, there wasn’t much she could do to fix it, except take the picture again. Our parents had it slightly better as the Polaroid camera evolved, but there wasn’t social media yet for them to share those photos to a wider audience.
Millennials are in a unique position, as we are the last generation to remember life before the social media takeover, and we came of age when MySpace arrived. It was the “in” thing to add as many photos to our gallery as we could, and if we wanted to decorate our pages with photos of ourselves globetrotting, the format allowed for it.
When Facebook debuted in 2004, it was like a rite of passage, because you couldn’t make an account without a college email. Seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?
But even then, there were limitations.
Taking “selfies” and “ussies” was awkward with digital cameras, so if we wanted a picture by the Eiffel Tower or The Grand Canyon, we had to ask somebody to do it for us. If you wanted to upload pictures of your trip to Jamaica in the early days of Facebook, it wasn’t so straightforward. But come hell or high water, you were going to post them as soon as you could connect your digital camera to the nearest computer. And if the internet gave out midway, you were willing to start over, because your Facebook friends had to see the footage of you climbing Dunn’s River Falls for the first time.
Who knew that one day we’d be able to use social media while on the go? Now, our smartphones grant us access to more than we ever thought possible, and we can connect to Facebook and Instagram easily through the apps. If somebody comments on your gorgeous photo of a Balinese sunset, it doesn’t matter if you get the notification at two in the morning. Chances are you’ll check it, knowing you’re going to fall down the rabbit hole for hours.
Social media is designed to be addictive and to keep you hooked for long stretches of time, so this isn’t surprising.
The impact social media has in helping us determine our next travel destination cannot be overstated. According to a Facebook study cited by Forever Vacation, a tour operator focused on Southeast Asia, “67% of travelers in 2019 used Instagram to find travel inspiration before booking a trip. Once they did, they continued to use the platform to get themselves pumped for the upcoming adventure. Instagram encourages people to explore new places they never even knew existed until they saw a photo pop up on their newsfeed.”
In some cases, Forever Vacation notes, “you’re only a few clicks away from seeing an image on Instagram to purchasing a ticket to go where that picture was taken.”
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with sharing our travel adventures over social media, or any other aspect of our lives. It’s the way of the present, and likely, the future. But if all we’re doing is snapping photos and sharing them, do we lose something special in the process?
Travel is valuable because it affords us a few days, weeks, months, and even years to immerse ourselves in a culture or environment that is foreign to us. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to put our phones down for a bit and not be as connected, or at least disable the social media apps, so we can truly absorb how fortunate we are to travel.