I recently read a blog post on WheresMollie.com written by Ms. Mollie herself, that inspired me to write an opinion piece of something we all know too well… Social Media! Mollie is one of my favorite travel bloggers and I read all her blog posts religiously, however when she argued that Social Media was destroying a generation of travelers, I couldn’t help but disagree! She started it off with a disclaimer, saying it was a bit of a controversial topic, so I thought I would take a couple minutes to argue the opposite side.
If you ask me… Social Media is fueling a whole new generation of travelers! I know this because I am one of them.
During college, I didn’t study abroad when I had the opportunity to, because my priorities were all wrong and I didn’t save up enough extra cash for spending money. I try to live without regrets but I regret the HELL out of that decision. I was always under the impression that living abroad for a semester was expensive and impossible to do for your average middle class American like me, so I just didn’t do it.
Introduction to a community of travelers…
Fast forward four years, and I’m following every travel vlogger on YouTube, every travel blogger on the world wide web, and every travel Instagrammer possible and have even read many of their books as well. Without social media, I would have never known any of these people existed!
Each one of these people have stories, tips and advice that are ten times better than anything you can read in an average travel guide book. They’ve learned through experiences and have made the choice to share these experiences on social media to fuel other people to create their own experiences as well.
[Which leads me to my next point…]
Endless travel inspiration on social media…
One of Mollie’s arguments was that we are obsessing over other people’s trips and trying imitate them. Though this may be true for some people, I believe that it is impossible to recreate a trip completely. If you look at it with a positive spin, these people see something that INSPIRES them so much that they choose to plan a similar trip. But each person will have a different experience because of people they meet, food they eat, and landscapes they witness. No two trips are ever the same.
[I’ve seen a million and one pictures of Horseshoe Bend in Arizona, doesn’t mean it won’t blow mind in person!]
Pictures only tell a portion of the story. What you don’t get from viewing an instagram photo on your cell phone is the surrounding views, the sunlight, the air, the breeze, the people you’re experiencing it with and the chills you get upon first glance. Social media will never take away what it’s like to be there in real life.
Creating a bucket list…
I don’t know if many of you know, but Instagram has a new feature where you can save images into folders to reference later! This folder has basically become a new bucket list for me, filled with places I’ve never seen of or heard of before! Social media is constantly exposing me to new and exotic locations.
[Is there such thing as finishing a bucket list? Because mine just keeps getting longer and longer!]
A lot of people use Pinterest in the same manner, saving images to a travel bucket list board and crossing them off one by one! Linking to other people’s travel boards might help you to create itineraries and find budget alternatives to just following the top 10 lists you may read off a google.
Fueling the economy…
Places like Iceland for example are a perfect example of how social media benefits the travel industry. I’ll be the first to admit that I had never given Iceland a thought before last year. As far as I knew, it was a cold and desolate country. All of a sudden, Iceland gets trendy across social media platforms and now their economy is booming! The travel industry started promoting Iceland left and right on social media and people started flocking to the country to experience the natural beautiful landscapes and unique culture.
The same goes for Namibia, a coastal country in Africa. A couple months ago, and I didn’t even know Namibia existed, but thanks to some of the most well-known travelers and their promotional social media content, it has jumped up on my bucket list. Between photos, Snapchats, videos and blog posts, they’ve promoted the country in a way that would interest travelers of any age or culture.
Using Social Media to Tell a story….
There’s something cool about being able to follow along someone’s travels on social media. As much as you’d like to update all of your friends and family about your daily travels, social media consolidates your story telling to one platform for people to follow along with.
[This should all be in moderation of course. Please do not spam my feed with a million vacation photos. We get it after one or two!]
How you use social media during your travels is a personal thing. There will always be people who are more focused on their phones and getting the right picture than enjoying the experience in person. They’ll waste time posting things to show off to their friends back home and gain followers while the sun sets with majestic colors behind them, and there is nothing we can say that’ll change that.
We can all make it our personal goals to travel and experience the adventure first hand. I try to limit myself to one social media post a day and keep the phone away for the majority of the trip. Photos are only meant to trigger the memory, not to be the memory itself.
Glo from the Blog Abroad (http://theblogabroad.com/) often suggests designating one day of your travels to walking the city and capturing all of your photos, and then spending the rest of your time there without technology and really experiencing the city and culture. For people who make a living off social media posts, this is a great way to make sure that your career doesn’t end up controlling your travels completely.
[It’s all about priorities people! There’s no sense in traveling if you aren’t going to enjoy the trip to your fullest!]
Connection for peace of mind…
In the past, travelers would venture out into this world without anything but pay phones to check in back home. We are now lucky enough to have access to WiFi and mobile devices so that we may check in with our friends and family back home on a regular basis. Mollie argues in her blog post that people would rather be on their phones than strike up a conversation with the person next to them, and I strongly agree with that. We shouldn’t let social media and our devices take away from meeting people sitting right in front of us.
[It’s more of a means of calming the stressed parents that we left behind!]
A whole new generation…
For a generation like the millennials, we’re fueled by social media and things that we see and read on the internet. This is not always a bad thing. All of a sudden, people are realizing how accessible the rest of the world can be if you make it a priority to see it. People have access to endless amount of material to read about how to budget travel, how to travel safe, packing lists, itineraries, reviews, photos, etc. When you look online and see people just like yourself visiting all the places you have saved to your Pinterest board, you realize that that could be you too. All of a sudden, dreams become reality and you’re posting the inspiring photos as well! There have always been the nomadic travelers of each generation, but we’re the first generation where people are realizing that anyone can do it.
There are a lot of downsides to social media, but bringing out the travelers within all of us is not one of them!
Thoughts on social media’s effect on the travel industry and our generation? Comment below! I’d love to hear people’s opinions on either side of the debate!