Has social media ruined the way we travel?

Remember the days of opening the Thomas Cook brochure and scanning the glossy pictures? Comparing the prices based on no other sources than the colour coded table half way through the magazine. Half of the time, what looked like a 100ft infinity pool turned out to be something only slightly bigger than your average paddling pool, and maybe they had slightly understated the ‘5 minute stroll to the beach’.

Now we live in a world where we can get every tiny piece of information we need before we even book our trip. We can see reviews, menu’s and room tours. We can scope out how our photos are going to look. Some go as far as to plan their photos before hand, or even book a place on how nice it will make their social media’s look. Recently I have been asking myself if it’s all gone a little too far. Spending hours trying to get the perfect pictures to post, rather than actually taking the time to enjoy ourselves. When did Instagram begin dictating what we enjoyed?

The question is, what makes us chose our next location? Is it the fact we actually want to visit that place? Or is it the beautiful influencer in a tiny bikini that posted a picture there? Does it matter any more where in the world the shot is taken, as long as it fits in with your feed?

Whilst in George Town, Malaysia last year, I spent a day chaotically running from one spot to the next; getting the all important Instagram shots in front of all of the beautiful street art. In the evening I began editing the images, proud with the fact I had a solid 7/8 that would probably make it to all of my social media platforms. Within minutes it became apparent that I hadn’t actually taken a second to consider what I was actually looking at. I hadn’t learned a thing about the art itself. All I was thinking was how this would look to other people.

We use Instagram to find those cafes. You know the ones that charge a tenner for a latte because its served on a marble table in front of a pastel wall. They know, even better than you, how fantastic that photo is going to look on your Instagram feed. Throw in some poached eggs on toast and you’ve really got yourself the perfect picture. But lets be totally honest – sometimes buttery toast in bed with a cuppa in your favourite mug is just what you really want.

Some of my best travel experiences have been the least photogenic experiences of my life. The evening we ate dumplings in a dingy restaurant in the centre of Beijing. The days spent making new friends in hostel dorms when I hadn’t worn make up in a week; or washed my hair in even longer. The snorkelling trips with the mask so tight it pushed my cheeks out wide like a 5 year old. The nights I’ve been drunk and lost in  a new city, knowing for sure that not one part of it will ever see the light of day on my Instagram account. Those are the memories I will carry with me. Not the time I queued to pose in front of a flower wall to ensure the trend of my feed didn’t buckle.

What I’m intending to do, is to continue to use these social media platforms to enhance my travel, rather than define it. I love learning about new places, lusting over beautiful hotels and checking out the foodie scene in a new city. But it will not be the main focus of my trips. I will use Instagram for the way it was intended – to inspire me, to educate me, but not to persuade me.

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