How social media is destroying our generation of travellers…

There is no denying it: technology and social media are taking over and finding their way into our lives left, right and centre.

The vast majority of us are signed up to and are active on at least one form of social media, and for many of us this reaches four or five platforms, including (but not exclusively) Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Tumblr. In many cases, the use of apps and social networks allows us to complete tasks with ease, convenience and efficiency when travelling. At the same time though, there are many downsides, and something that has recently been bothering me is the impact of social media on meaningful travel experiences.

This article isn’t to say that we should stop using technology altogether, but I certainly think the dangers that I’m about to mention are definitely something we need to take on board and bear in mind whilst we are travelling…

That is, if we still want to see the growth, independence and personal development that is so widely adored by travellers.

I have spent the last 18 months travelling full-time and meeting travellers and influences all over the world. While, of course, this article doesn’t apply to everyone… I have noticed a massive shift in travel, and the future of travel scares me a little.

So, here we have it. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

No doubt my points may be controversial, but this is honestly how I feel.

How Social Media Is Destroying Our Generation Of Travellers | Where's Mollie? A Travel and Adventure Lifestyle Blog

How social media is ruining travel experiences and how to overcome it…

  • We are obsessed with other people’s travels and copying them…

There’s inspiration and then there’s imitation. You can be led to a destination because of the beauty someone has captured there, but be careful to not be led to the exact moment they captured and don’t get obsessed with recreating it. Why? Because you never, ever, ever will. Create your own memories.

  • We already know what’s coming…

Again, browsing your favourite travel channels is a great way to research where you’re going, to create a cracking itinerary, and to get excited about your trip. Just make sure you leave some of the excitement til you get there. Don’t spend every minute living through their Snapchats, Insta pics, Facebook updates and tweets. Leave some beauty to be discovered. Leave some surprise, something to blow your mind. The best things in life really are the unexpected things.

  • We are too focused on getting ‘the shot’…

So often now, we visit a destination or landmark to get a pretty picture, but forget to invest time in any of the history or culture surrounding the location. Dig deeper into your travels and explore them by depth.

  • We end up capturing for other people’s benefit…

Photos are a great way to capture memories and it’s pretty much a given that you will take a camera on holiday. Just make sure you are taking photos for your enjoyment and not to show off to other people.

  • We are too busy storytelling and not actually living…

As part of the most documented generation yet, even the average person updates the internet with what they are eating and the sunset spots they have found. As a travel blogger, it’s part of the job to do this and all at a completely different level. The danger is that you spend your life trying to show how much fun you’re having, instead of just having fun.

  • We have high expectations…

There is literally nothing you can’t do to a photo with the apps available these days. You can isolate and change every colour you wish, you can insert starry skies, you can add a fish eye and you can cut and copy objects to duplicate their existence {e.g. stars}. It honestly makes me question every photo I look at now. Enhanced pictures can lead you to a disappointing reality. So just bear that in mind when you look at photographer’s work. It’s art, not always reality.

  • We aren’t capturing natural moments as much…

I kinda miss disposable cameras and the devices we used before digital technology became popular. Now we are so obsessed with how we look in photos that we miss the natural capture and end up with posed and sometimes lifeless, forced memories.

  • We would rather have a high phone bill than talk to the person next to us…

When I was in the Philippines without a phone, I honestly felt like I was truly travelling again. I felt challenged, and I felt lost. I felt confused at times. All of this made me inquisitive, conscious and actually… pretty excited. I love the potential growth that comes with travelling, and often the most awkward situations lead us to those exact developments. However, with a phone to hand we often duck out of ‘travelling’ and FaceTime home or switch on our data roaming. That’s not to say either of those are wrong or don’t have their places, but we need to be mindful that we are actually fulfilling the purpose of our travels.

  • We are using our phone to avoid social awkwardness rather than over coming it…

Social media has become a tool that we use as a resort when we feel nervous or awkward. Instead of developing our social skills, we often resort to our phones as an easy way to avoid the situation. This means we don’t communicate with people as much {and communication is key to human happiness} and actually these days I find I come across a lot of social awkwardness. It’s as if people have forgotten how to hold a conversation!

  • We aren’t using intuition or self-navigation; there’s an app for everything…

There are so many awesome apps that make our lives so much easier and increase our overall efficiency. However, when it comes to travel, this can take away from some of the beauty. Next time you get lost in a city, challenge yourself to ask someone for directions, or to observe signs before you open up Google Maps. It could lead to you starting a random conversation, or to the biggest adventure opportunity of your life… you never know! Make room for doors to be opened and remember to look up from your phone.

  • We are letting photos justify our existence and our experiences…

As they say, if you didn’t capture it, did it really happen?

How sad is that? Yes, yes, it did happen. Memories don’t always have to be shared.

Sometimes the best moments are ones you don’t even get a chance to think about capturing. Memories are just as special when they are kept just for yourself. Sometimes there is no art that could justify an experience, and it should just be left for the pleasure of the people there.

  • We get stressed about social media…

What caption should I write? Does this picture go with my colour palette? Do I have that perfect, ‘How’s your Monday’ shot?

All these things are absolutely fine, but not when it comes at the cost of actually enjoying your travels. Even I am guilty of this.

  • We feel the need to ‘tick’ off countries and ‘see everywhere’…

I was once this person. But let me tell you, after 12 months of racing through 29 countries, there is so much more enjoyment in spending more time in less places. How much of a culture can you truly experience in one or two days somewhere? Not much…

Isn’t that what travel is about? Seeing the world through other people’s eyes? Getting to know locals and letting them take you to random places beyond your imagination?

That is really the pinacle of this article.

What has travel become?

A way to show off and boost your ego?

A way to create visually pleasing art?

How much growth are we restricting with the use of social media? How much money are we wasting on experiences in this day and age just to ‘up our social media’?

I am guilty of many things in this article, and because travelling and capturing these moments is my career, I especially find myself in a constant battle with all of the above.

The way forward?

Be mindful, be conscious.

Admittedly we do have to go with the times. It’s not realistic for me to suggest that everyone should bin their phones. But I do think we need to be very careful not to sabotage what is one of life’s greatest pleasures… travel.

All for what, an Instagram shot?

I would literally love to hear your thoughts on the subject. How has social media affected YOUR life? How has it affected YOUR travel experiences?

Thank YOU guys for reading <3

Love as always + happy adventuring,

Mollie x

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  • Samantha Visone

    I love this!!! I can relate so much and honestly say I have selfishly been disappointed with places I’ve been because photos I have see are heavily edited! Tons of people I know are worried about the right edit and the caption and the hashtags on their social media. I think that a lot of people let social media take their fear of missing out to a entire new level, something traveling has taught me to contain with a sort of “I’ll get there when I get there” attitude. It’s also great to see that you’ve brought up this subject in a serious yet positive light because a lot of travel bloggers use social media to their advantage to further their career. I can honestly say that traveling to a foreign country without wifi 24/7 makes for a much better adventure. I also agree 100% with more time in less places, because you don’t really get to enjoy much of anything in a short time as opposed to thoroughly enjoying one place! Great read girly 🙂

    • Thanks lovely!!! Totally agree with you – it just takes over and when you think about how much money these trips cost it’s crazy to think how we are sabotaging them!!

  • Lizzie Mason

    Amen! Whatever happened to playing a game of cards in the evening instead of being glued to our devices? I like not knowing whats going on in everyones lives back home every day, it means we have nothing left to talk about when I get back. I try to use social media to my advantage maybe a post a day to share what I’m up to with friends and family but then the mobile data goes off. Although I do find this is a problem when your not traveling too, I recently went out with friends for a coffee and spent half the time watching them scroll through Facebook or instagram, I miss meaningful conversation where people are fully engaged in the topic. Love the post mollie keep it up!
    Lizzie
    @ Lizzieslovelylife.wordpress.com

    • PEOPLE WHO ARE FULLY ENGAGED. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN.
      It is so frustrating having a conversation with someone who is attending to messages / social.

  • Lydia

    I couldn’t agree more! On my current trip I have definitely noticed people using their phones to avoid awkward social situations. I have personally also struggled with feeling the need to tick everything off of a ‘must see’ list. However, on this trip I have chosen to avoid anything I don’t think I’ll actually enjoy and would just be doing because I feel ‘I should’. It’s these places which are usually swarmed with tourists anyway! Great post Mollie 🙂

    • Thanks babe!! Yes i agree – it’s funny because when you let go of the idea that you ‘have to see’ a certain place – you end up just doing what you fancy and going where your heart is led. And whatever that may be is perfect – even if the instagram shots aren’t!!!

  • Tania

    Hiya Mollie! I really enjoyed your article! This is a topic that has been on my mind also for a long time. I travelled for 4 months solo in 2009 without a phone (there was no such thing as wifi!), all i had was an ipod but even that broke after a few weeks haha. The experience was so different to a recent backpacking trip i took with my smart phone. Sometimes, I wonder how I got around without google maps, or without my hostel booking saved on my phone – but I did! Before, no one went to a bar ordered a beer and the wifi code (which i am guilty of doing!) and hostel common areas were full of people bonding, sharing travel stories/travel tips, playing cards/drinking games.

    Its lovely being able to share special and funny moments with friends and family back home and to let loved ones know you’re still alive. I think ultimately as you say its about being mindful and getting a good balance. You might find this interesting –
    http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/instagrammability-holiday-factor-millenials-holiday-destination-choosing-travel-social-media-photos-a7648706.html

    Think you’re spot on! 🙂 Tan @ theislandermauritius.wordpress.com

    • That’s the beauty of travelling. Not knowing how you were going to get somewhere, but finding a way and making it happen! It’s all the little details in between these journeys that are the most special!
      Definitely agree with the balance. That is the way forward!

  • stephaniestraveldiary

    Hi Mollie. I am so happy that you wrote this article because I feel the same way.
    I guess there is a shift in the travellers:
    – on one side are the true travellers, backpackers, people who explore because they love that, who share the things about travelling because they like to travel.
    – on the other side, the instagram-travellers who travel just somewhere to get a shot and travel to the next…who do a lot of sponsered post, who do not really get into the culture etc… Lately I keep seeing instagrammers going to the same places and hotels as others and it bothers me a lot.
    There is nothing bad about wanting to share your travels, and wanting a nice photo……but I think people should not travel just to get the shot that gives them 1000 likes.

    xx

    • I AGREE WITH THIS SO MUCH.
      I’m really consciously trying to keep to the true traveller category. The instagram – traveller life may get more likes and more viral potential but it soon gets boring and experiences become shallow and less fulfilling. I just don’t think it’s worth the compromise. I want to appeal to the average traveller and my happiness is most important to be honest. I want to be happy and then share it. Not share it and pretend i’m happy.

      Thanks for the feedback babe!

  • Great post! I agree 100%, and am totally guilty of it too. Social media is a blessing and a curse, I’ve discovered so many great places that I never had heard of before through social media, but at the same time it becomes a crutch.

    I rented a car in Romania last year to drive through Transylvania, and ended up stuck on the side of the road in the mud looking for some old castle! A Romanian man who didn’t speak a lick of English found me and tried to help. It was one of the most unproductive conversations I’ve ever had! But it was also “real traveling.” And guess what, I never felt the urge to post about it, which arguably made it even better 🙂

    Thanks for the good read!

    Ricky

    • 100%. I mean i wouldn’t be on it at all if it wasn’t for the benefits. It’s allowed our generation to create awesome careers and like with anything, there are always advantages and disadvantages.

      I totally agree. Its the moments that you get lost and ask for help that you create the most awesome friendships and conversations! So glad you have that memory!

  • Tom Hughes

    Completely agree! As you mentioned, does something ever really happen unless you put in on social media? These days sadly not.

    My pet hate of social media is the falseness of everything; I mean does anyone REALLY wake up looking that good and is the picture REALLY #nofilter? Because people primarily use social media to share the very best things in their lives, it’s inevitably only ever is used to show off. Which just contorts our expectation of places/things/people and life in general. And I wish I could post something and not give a shit about who or how many people like it, but I can’t.

    Hopefully a week detox of no social media will allow me to claw some of my life back – I just need to find the courage to start haha

    • That’s probably my favourite point, we totally need to go back to basics and be okay with not getting phones out and documenting every great moment.
      I totally agree with the falseness – it creates a total illusion of life and ultimately leads to continuous disappointment for people!

  • Hi! I totally agree with all the points you mentioned above. Whenever I browse my Instagram feed, I feel twinges of envy when I see friends having the time of their lives in different places abroad. And I sometimes feel that “I have to have that kind of shot too.”

    When I took a trip to the US two years ago, I was determined to capture great/artistic shots. But when I was already there, it took too much effort and hassle to capture that perfect shot. It felt better to just keep my camera and soak up the moment. I felt that I was just simply living in the moment, and that felt great.

    • Totally. As soon as you lift that pressure to ‘get the shot’ suddenly you find yourself free and in the moment… what travel is actually about! We live in a crazy world hahah!
      <3

  • Rod Shepherd

    i personally find it interesting the younger generation feel the need to include themselves in so many photos and i include yourself in this category. Is this for money, vanity or for some weird idea that without seeing yourself in the photo you can’t prove you were there or ever really believe you were. I’ve done some large trips around the world over many months and i just don’t feel i need to have photos of myself for any reason. There’s a few, usually with people, but on a trip lasting a month i’d be lucky to take a selfie a week amongst hundreds of photos. I also find for myself being in the middle of my life i’ve never felt i must do some things as a traveller. I’ve been to Paris thre etimes but still to climb the Eifel tower, yet every time I’m there i walk the streets soaking up the place and looking for quaint cafe’s i can sit, read a book and just soak it all up. Good post btw Mollie

    • That’s an interesting point Rod!
      I guess it’s individual preference whether to include yourself in the shot or not 🙂
      I agree with your take on Paris – you don’t need to be doing what everyone else is doing. Whatever makes you happy do that. Often that leads to, like in your case, a quieter calmer and more peaceful experience away from the crowds!

    • Auds Abroad

      It is an interesting point you raise, I for one take lots of pictures of things that interest me or I think looks really pretty and captures the moment. Like the time I spent a couple of hours on a beach on St Lucia and the picture I walked away with was the waves crashing up on the white sandy beach scattered with shells, I took a lot of photos on thats trip and when I got home I was excited to share them with people but all I got was, why are there no pictures of you?? So I think it is a balance that everyone needs to find for themselves, a combination of landscapes to capture the beauty but also pictures of you to show others when they get home and not for showing off purposes but that is what people want to see.

  • Alessandra Plmb

    Completely agree with you ! we’re all half tempted to fall in the trap, to be proud of owning that perfect moment, that perfect shot, to share it with our loved ones whom we couldn’t bring with us …. but then half of us just want to live the moment fully, to remember it with our eyes and our hearts and to do that, you need to concentrate on what’s directly in front of you, and not put a screen in between or lose 30 min thinking about how would it be best to see it from the pic-viewer point of view later on…. social media’s influence is both sad and exciting at the same time. so i agree with you, we should maintain a balance between social media for pleasure and natural enjoyment in the present moment. thanks for the article, i feel exactly the same about all you said.

  • I’m so with you on the ticking off countries things. Part of me does want to see more of my world map coloured it, but another part of want to explore places that I loved more deeply. Really great post lovely.

  • Dan Thompson

    Good stuff here Mollie, and I would offer that this applies more broadly to life in general than just traveling alone.

    I think what resonated most with me was the part about already knowing what’s coming. In my effort to get “the shot”, I do a lot of planning and thinking (because if you’ve only got one chance, you might as well make the most of it), which generally involves looking at what others have done, hoping to gleen some nuggets of do’s and don’ts… In the process though, I can very definitely steal the wonder of it all! There is a balancing act there for sure.

    Dan

  • Carla Anne

    I agree with you! Sometimes we’re to busy trying to get the perfect Instagram pic,that we aren’t really taking in the space and people around us! Xx

  • Izzy

    So so so true!

  • Well said. I totally agree with you – we spend far too much time and mental energy trying to document everything and not nearly enough living! Nobody seems to experience things deeply anymore – we seem just to do things so they’ll look good! You’re not going to find fulfilment on your phone screen!
    Live now, share later.

  • Maggie Burch

    This is a great post! I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past few days. Travel is supposed to be unique and exciting. The things that people are doing with it are taking away those things.

  • Sometimes when I travel, I actually use social media less. I know for a person that has a travel blog, that’s pretty bad right? But I kind of value my time and the memories I make in that destination more than uploading stuff to social media straight away. It’s nice to put the phone away sometimes and enjoy the moment and the people around you. It really can lead to some of the best experiences and memories!