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Is Social Media Ruining Your Travel Experience?

By now, we’re all used to hearing about the negative impacts of social media on our lives. We’re too wrapped up in our phones. We’re not interacting enough with other humans. Farm Heroes is ruining relationships. All of this because we can’t pry our hands off the sleek surface of our smartphones. Travel is about experiencing the actual world as it surrounds us (unless Marriott has anything to say about it). So it’s time to ask yourselves: Is social media ruining your travel experience?

Americans spend almost four hours a day on their phones and vacations are no exception. Instagram is now a breeding ground for incessant photo sharing, thanks especially to its story feature. Now people aren’t just posting their best pictures, they’re sharing every step of their journey. And while that journey can be enlightening to some, it can also have a negative impact on your own experience.

Take me for example—I blog about travel for a living. I’m pretty much done with trip reports since they’re so time-consuming, but I still share my travels on Instagram stories. During a trip to Turkey last summer, I realized quickly that I wasn’t seeing and experiencing things first-hand. I was viewing everything through my phone’s camera. All the incredible sights of Cappadocia, the historic streets of Sultanahmed in Istanbul—I had my phone in hand virtually the entire time to record and share the “experience.” To the point where I wasn’t even experiencing it anymore.

There was one day on my trip when I decided to walk from the Bomonti area all the way to Taksim Square, which was about two miles away. Initially, I had my eyes glued to the phone to navigate my way over there. Then I began taking pictures of interesting things and distractedly moving along. Then it hit me (almost literally): This isn’t safe. Also, I’m not taking in all the sights and passing by incredible shops without looking at anything. So I put my phone away for the remaining mile and a half.

My arms were free to swing at my sides, I made eye contact with people who smiled and said hello. I smelled the delicious wet burgers a street vendor was cooking up and stopped to grab one. I found a lovely scarf and haggled with the shop owner until we both walked away happy. More importantly, I actually felt the energy of the city and took in all the sights and sounds. I don’t have recordings of most of it, but it’s seared in my memory and I look back on it fondly. It was one of my favorite days of the trip – just walking through Istanbul on my own and feeling the city with all my senses. Viewing it through a screen? Not the same thing.

Of course, the lesson didn’t really hit home until I got to Cappadocia and decided to film while riding a seemingly docile horse through the Red Valley. Just as we were descending down a mountain towards the valley, my horse threw me and I hit a rocky hill so hard it knocked the wind out of me. And I couldn’t move for several minutes. It was beyond stupid of me to ride a horse while on my phone and I should have known better. After my fall, all the other riders carefully put their own away and just enjoyed the views ahead of them.

I’m not alone: Last year several Instagrammers died while taking selfies. People travel to destinations just because they’re “Instafamous” and who doesn’t want to recreate a shot that’s been liked thousands of times? For a long time, I wouldn’t even go to a restaurant with a 3-star rating and you know what? I ended up eating a lot of generic food at hipster places that were overpriced and over-hyped, thanks to 5-star reviews that were bought.

In exchange for following the herd and keeping our eyes glued to our screens, we’re missing out on the true, unfiltered beauty around us. Travel isn’t just experienced through the eyes (or lens). It has to be experienced through all five senses and spending too much of it looking at our phones, trying to share it with the world, ruins that.

Do you think social media has negatively impacted your travel experiences? Please share in the comment section.


[Image: pxhere]

Comments are Closed.
ConnieDee March 1, 2019

I struggle myself with the question of having a camera out (whether to share or not to share) - you've written an insightful article that I will take heed of.

Mtothe M February 26, 2019

I laugh when people die from selfies...talk about Darwin winning.

IBobi February 21, 2019

It is time to ban cell phones in museums. Because people have no shame or self control.

sdsearch February 20, 2019

You're missing the difference between "using" something and "overusing" it. Such distractions were theoretically possible long before social media, long before mobile phones: I've wandered through cities often checking a physical map, as opposed to a phone. I've taken lots of pictures with an actual camera while traveling. It's just that no one ever "constantly" looked at a physical map while walking or riding a horse, and no one ever "constantly" took pictures with a real camera while walking or riding a horse, and no one ever read a guide book "constantly" while talking or riding a horse.. Some people have somehow started using phones in a "constant" mode (while doing anything/everytthing else) and that's what you're talking about. Use a phone the way you would use a map, a guide book, or a real camera and you'll have a much better travel experience than using the phone "constantly". I only use social media when I have down time in a hotel, say on a rainy day. I don't bother using it when I'm out and about. I only take pictures of what I really care about, which involves thinking about the lighting/etc and taking my time to find the right place to the picture from, most of that not needing to be with the camera in my hand (and I still use a "real" camera instead of a phone),

strickerj February 20, 2019

I’ll echo the sentiment of other commenters and say, for me, social media doesn’t ruin travel for me since I turn it off when I’m on vacation. I do take lots of pictures, but I don’t share in real time - I go through the pictures later and share my favorites, if at all. It helps that a lot of the places I go don’t have cell reception. (In Yellowstone last fall, I didn’t see any data or WiFi connections for the full 3 days I was in the park. It made navigation a little more challenging than I was used to, but ultimately it was kind of liberating.)