Is technology ruining travel?

Is keeping up with social media and doing it for the gram outweighing the benefits of having technology at our fingertips?

I’ve read loads of blogs lately proclaiming that being glued to our phones and chasing that perfect shot is ruining the experience of travel for our generation. Their arguments are very valid – I see it.

But like anything, there are pros and cons.

As a 27-year-old traveller, I feel on the cusp of two eras…

When I compare my 2009 travels to my 2017 travels I can’t believe how much has changed. From emailing my mum from an internet cafe once a week in 2009 to today where I can take a photo on my GoPro, send it to my iPhone via inbuilt Wi-Fi then post it on five social media platforms and to all my group chats within five minutes.

It can be so handy but I also think I enjoyed the moment more when I travelled with no phone or internet connection when I was 19.

So how is it affecting the way we travel? I’m going to weigh up the pros and cons.

The bad bits

We’ve seen it before

I feel as if I rarely see somewhere for the first time – I’ve always seen it online first. Social media can make places feel like a book you’ve read the last page of – especially when online you didn’t see the massive queues or the McDonalds round the corner.

Vienna was beautiful but it wasn’t the first time I’d seen the Hundertwasser Village!

Copying other peoples travels

I know I’m guilty of this – I read blogs and follow their suggested itineraries and seek out their photo spots. When there’s so much information at your fingertips it can be easy to copy rather than pave your own route.

That’s not the worst of it though. Competing with how much of an awesome time everyone else on social media is having and all the cool places they’ve been is one of the biggest struggles of our generation – there’s so much pressure to not miss out that you can literally end up doing it for the gram.

If you didn’t get a photo, did it happen?

Experiences are sometimes deemed less valid if they weren’t documented today. And what about those awesome moments that are just as meaningful but aren’t photogenic?

We look around less

If you’re sitting alone in a hostel bar or restaurant or even the beach, it’s so tempting to check in with the world on your phone especially if you feel self-conscious that you’re sat alone. Usually there are sights around you way more interesting and loads of people in hostels you could be chatting to instead.

A view I wouldn’t want to miss!

We don’t use our intuition

When you have Google Maps, Maps.me and Citymapper and can even use them offline, why trace your steps and make an effort to find the way yourself? If I suddenly find myself with a broken device or flat battery, it’s a mini crisis because I’m not used to being without them and I probably wouldn’t have the skills to sort it out.

The constant struggle of getting ‘that photo’

I’ve said it myself – I’m not leaving ’til I’ve got the perfect photo! Even if that means waiting til 9 people pose first and have to crop out some others in the background. I arrive in places feeling more like I’m on a mission than like I’m there to relax.

Who are we doing it for?

It should be for YOU but so often there’s a focus on letting everyone back home know you were having the best time like, eva and trying to impress rather than just enjoy.

When I was in China in 2012 no one saw my photos until weeks after. But that might been because I was trekking with no Wi-Fi!

The good bits

Online communities 

I have a couple of groups I really enjoy being part of like Girls Love Travel. Users give each other advice, meet and become real-life friends, and even show each other around their hometowns and offer up their spare rooms. For every person sat ignoring others in a hostel bar to go on their phone, there’s probably someone in an empty bar using their phone to connect with others who live in that area.

Blogs that inspire

There are some would-be travellers out there who need a push – encouragement that you won’t be lonely if you travel solo and that you CAN conquer this big wide world. If your immediate friends and family haven’t done it you might not know achievable it is. If there’s one person out there who’s made their dreams a reality as a result of inspiring travel accounts and groups, then I’m all for tech.

You can do it, I promise!

Security

When I travelled in 2009 it was normal for my family to not hear from me for a week. A lot can happen in a week – and who would have known? Nowadays the ease of staying in touch is also your security net. Especially for girls, the security that the internet provides can get your family and friends onboard with your travels when they might have stressed or been less supportive otherwise.

Apps and resources can help

My most used travel apps include Hostelworld, XE Currency and Airbnb. If you’re in a sticky sitch with nowhere to stay or you need to work out the currency they can be really useful. When I think of the times I rocked up with a heavy backpack and wandered the streets only to find an expensive and crappy place to stay, there’s no contest.

Memories are fresher 

The high-quality photos and videos we can make today for a relatively low cost keep your memories fresher than ever before. That can’t be a bad thing!

It’s so easy to get great photos

Working remotely

The chance to work online means you may not run out of money on the road or have to head back after your annual leave is over. The internet is providing so many people with opportunities to build a business and make their travel dreams their day jobs… Yes, please!

So where do you stand? 

I would say embrace the good bits and don’t give in to the bad (basically, stress LESS about what everyone else is doing and DON’T sit on your laptop in a hostel bar)… but once you’ve given a man fire, it’s hard to take it away. Our techie habits are inherent and ingrained now.

Yep, social media is affecting the way we enjoy the moment. The desire to keep up with our friends (including people we barely know!) is stronger than ever and that affects travel as well as other areas of life.

But when it makes it easier to make great photographic memories, join blogging communities, keep in touch and inspire others to do it too – how can it be so bad? I’m in two minds and glad I got to see both sides.

What are your experiences of travelling with and without tech like? I’d be so intrigued to hear!

READ NEXT: 10 reasons solo travel is awesome

AND: How I fell in love with travel to begin with

2 Replies to “Is technology ruining travel?”

  1. I agree with so much of this Rose. I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle on this trip- tech isn’t the be all and end all for me but I still like to take photographs for memory’s sake. I like using Instagram as a kind of storage device of my favourite photos and even if I had 0 followers (which I pretty much do, come to think of it!) I would still post on it. I’ve used blogs and peoples instagrams for suggestions on places to go on my current trip around Eastern Europe and I know I wouldn’t have come across those little villages or towns or unique experiences without them. Like you said, there are both pros and cons. I think people in hostels are more aware and respectful to one another now (I hope) then just sitting on their phones, but I know I am guilty of needing to sit on my phone to book the next hostel etc from time to time. It’s a tricky one!

    1. Thanks for the comment Meish! Totally agree. Good point about the little towns you wouldn’t have known about otherwise – and on a sub note to that, the business to communities and local businesses generated by places shared online just be really positive. But then I guess it just gets more complicated when you think of hidden gems getting spoiled! So much to think about!

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