Has social media ruined the beauty of travel?
By Shweta Vepa Vyas
Here’s a cliché: Kahlil Gibran once said on travel, “Travel and tell no one.” Cut to 2018, in a world of Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter, that seems like a very slim possibility. No doubt the internet has made the world smaller, and the possibilities of travel are just a click away, but it’s not without a price. There was a time when a holiday meant relaxation. But today, the constant need to document every single experience has forever altered the way we travel.
Perhaps the biggest aspect of social media is that it’s taken away from the charm of a destination. The magic of travel has always been in discovering the unknown. But with social media, there’s been an overkill and you can virtually visit a destination through your smartphone. With features like Stories on Instagram and Facebook, the pressure to constantly update has been only been mounting. Seeing every meaningful travel experience through your phone screen coupled with the obsession to tell the world what you’re doing has been linked with anxiety and depression.
Seasoned travel writers and photographers Gustasp and Jeroo Irani believe that social media has on the one hand diluted and on the other, enhanced the travel experience. “The experience has been diluted to the degree that the sense of surprise has diminished somewhat because you get to know the destination visually and quite intimately even before you get there (if you do your research well). On the other hand, a tourist or traveller can go better armed with information and not miss out on what a destination has to offer. It also eliminates unpleasant surprises.” Avinash Martis, a Boston-based technology professional agrees on the experience being diluted. “The information overload that you receive by searching on social media kind of ruins the excitement when you actually get there. I have also noticed that social media has caused over-tourism of places just to get that ‘Instagrammable’ picture (I have seen this happening especially in cases of food and popular restaurants),” he opines.
However, it can’t be denied that social media has definitely made the travel experience extremely convenient. According to Martis, prior to social media’s relevance, one had to go through travel guides and then figure out the best possible plan. “Today, just by searching hashtags, or location tags, you come across the ideas of thousands of travellers, all with a single click. Social media also allows you to get the local perspective of a city or town which was not as accessible before the world of Instagram and Facebook.” The accessibility that social media allows is looked upon as a positive by many. Journalist and blogger Riaan George who’s also an avid Instagrammer, believes anyone can get a taste of a destination at the click of a button. “You no longer have to be a journalist to be able to share travel experiences. It has made travel more democratic and accessible. Also, it increases awareness—people get to see new places and then aspire to go there.” He firmly believes that Instagram hasn’t ruined the travel experience. “I love sharing my experiences with my followers so they can see a place vicariously through my eyes. Especially, in the luxury space, a lot of people who would not normally get to go to certain destinations or hotels, can see it through my eyes.” The only negative he sees is when people get so ‘glued’ to their phones that they forget to actually ‘experience’ the place. Gustasp and Jeroo too are all for the accessibility. “Social has made the world more accessible and made potential travellers aware of what is on offer. It has reduced one's dependence on travel agents and encouraged people to create their own itineraries, travel on their own and get more adventurous.”
Perhaps, it always helps to see the lighter side of things. The obsession for Insta-worthy photos and selfies has also spawned jokes and bloopers. Martis who recently visited Peru along with his wife came across a spot famous for its ‘Instagrammable’ pictures. While seeing all those people crowding around for a picture, was a funny sight, they decided to jump the bandwagon and took a similar picture themselves. As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them!