How Is Social Media Influencing The Way We Travel?
Ask yourself this, “Would you still want to travel to that country if you couldn't take a camera with you?”
It's not news that over the past few years the digital landscape has largely influenced the way we travel. Each year, billions of people travel around the globe to visit one must-see destination after the other, sometimes rushing from shot to shot and returning from their ‘vacation’ even more exhausted than before. Not only statistics show this phenomenon, but we see the results first hand - online. Experiences, moments and entire trips are instantly shared, from posts to stories to live streams - whenever, wherever.
Social media has proven to be a resourceful channel, besides offering simple inspiration, the perfect shot often largely influences not only where to go on the next trip, but also what to do and where to go while you are there. As Chris Burkhard, who has nearly 3-million followers in Instagram, points out “Now you are less than 10 clicks away from seeing an image on Instagram to purchasing a ticket to go there.”
Readily available content by our friends and family and our favorite Instagrammers makes destinations more visual, more human and especially, seemingly more attainable than ever before. These images connect to our desire to explore more than any other corporately-staged image ever could.
In sharing their lives and travels, social media has allowed people to inspire others to get outside and discover what else is out there. Sometimes, they even shine a light on the less known and underappreciated spots as well as on important but often overseen social and environmental issues. Only by visiting and experiencing it first hand, you are able to establish a real connection.
The desire to explore, especially unknown places, has grown rapidly in the last couple of years. And Instagram allows you to see and share real-time content via live streams, stories and hashtags. At the same time, it also facilitates connecting with residents and being inspired by the content and recommendation from locals, instead of just tourism boards, hotels and travel agencies.
Yet, what are the downsides of social media-fueled tourism? A picture of the Eiffel Tower with not another soul in sight, pink skies all over Santorini, Tulum and even London? We are shown and trained to showcase the most polished, if not a manipulated version of reality.
How many times have you seen an image of swing in Bali? Or a famous castle in Germany? Do people travel to these destinations to really experience them, or simply to ‘get the shot’? And the almost-compulsive need to instantly share might make us miss out the important moments: like the sunset while adjusting your ‘Mayfair’ filter or skipping the local corner cafe for a quick Wifi stop at Starbucks instead.
Getting people out there to explore is great, but what if everyone rushes to explore the very same spot? Social media, and especially image based travels, can bring overcrowding and environmental exhaustion.
Social media has had a major effect on the way we travel. Travel broadens your horizon and allows you to try new experiences. But, how do we leverage the power of travel without exploiting it?
The answer is simple: travel, but travel mindfully. Choose new places which might not be all over the internet, do not (always) mimic others and share your own, personal experiences. And above all, treat your environment and surroundings with respect and leave no trace.
Travel is a good thing. Let’s keep it that way!