SOCIAL MEDIA: HOW TO STOP IT RUINING YOUR HOLIDAY
"The camera eats first," my friend once sighed as I pulled my phone out to snap a photo of my meal. This is the classic behaviour of the social media-obsessed traveller: taking photos of absolutely everything so the experiences can be uploaded to Facebook and Instagram and liked and shared by the masses.
It's behaviour that plenty of modern-day travellers exhibit, this need to document and share everything around us. But is it harmful? Is it ruining the travel experience?
Catharine Lumby, a professor of media at Sydney's Macquarie University, says most adults, including those obsessed with travel, tend to handle social media sensibly.
"Most adults use it for what they need it for," she says. "Social media can really enhance the travel experience. We're now able to ask friends on Facebook or Twitter questions about where we're going, it helps us connect with people… Even TripAdvisor is an example of social media, and it's a fantastic support for people who are travelling."
There are, of course, people who become overly obsessed with social media, prioritising likes and favourites over actual friends and experiences, but Professor Lumby says they're a minority.
"People who are dependent on someone liking their latest social media post probably already have some issues in their life," she says. "We've all known people on Facebook who update their status every half an hour, and it's sad, really. So I think when you see people behaving like that, you can probably assume that they have some other issues."
The question for travellers, then, is how to use social media effectively. Do you share your every thought, feeling and meal with the world? Or just observe from the sidelines?
"There's a lot of evidence with Twitter, for example, that the people who are using it most effectively are the people who are just listening," Professor Lumby says.
"Same with Facebook. Essentially anyone who's bombarding a social media platform with what they had for breakfast, lunch and dinner doesn't really get social media and how it functions. No one uses Twitter effectively if they're posting 10 times a day, because other people stop listening."
Mostly, however, the trick to social media is to stop worrying about it. It's not toxic, and it's not addictive. It just is.
"Social media is part of our reality now," she says. "It's part of how we maintain relationships and share ideas. Most of the time when people are travelling, you're on vacation, and you do want to share things. You want to share photos with people who've never been there. It's genuine."
And that even goes for wanting to photograph your lunch.
USING SOCIAL MEDIA
How to tweet, gram, blog and Facebook your travels:
For the uninitiated, Twitter may seem a senseless gathering place for the vapid, the vain and the vainglorious. After all, how much meaning and interest can really be conveyed in 140 characters or less? And who really cares what you ate for lunch today?
The more you use it, however, the more you realise that Twitter isn't so much about what you can contribute as a microblog of your travels, but what can be gleaned from others, often in the form of links to articles that contain a million and one tips for travellers. Some of the best accounts to follow include @TravelDudes, @ShannonRTW, @yTravelBlog, @nomadicmatt, and of course, @Travellerau.
One of the fastest growing social media outlets is Instagram, the app that works a little bit like Twitter, only pictorially. With Instagram you can edit and upload all of your favourite holiday snaps, sharing them with friends and followers from around the world.
But the use of Instagram shouldn't be limited to merely boasting with your #sorrynotsorry selfies from around the world. As with Twitter, Instagram is a great place to find inspiration as well as information for your coming journeys. Follow accounts such as @natgeotravel, @natgeowild, @gopro and @airbnb to stoke your travelling fire. There are some great photographers and bloggers around too – try @paulnicklen, @jewelzee, @trentmitchellphoto, or @michaelturtle. Or, for a curated view of the best in travel, follow @travellerau.
Anyone who's ever stepped outside their front door would already know the value of Facebook for travellers. Again, it's not so much the things you can put out there for the world to see, but the information that others contribute that makes it really valuable. To begin with, this is your number one tool for keeping in touch with all of those friends you make on the road that you'd otherwise lose track of. Send them a friend request, and you're linked for life.
With Facebook, you can keep tabs on where your friends are and what they're doing. And if you're linked to other travel obsessives, you'll also quickly find your newsfeed filling up with travel-related stories and videos.
First, it was letters – travellers would pen page after page, stick them in an envelope and send them home for everyone to keep track of what they were doing on their journeys. Next came the group email, the scourge of inboxes during the early 2000s. Now, if you want to keep friends and family – and anyone else who'd care to follow – updated on your adventures, you need your own blog.
Fortunately, these are easy to create. Simply go to a free hosting site such as Blogger, Tumblr, Posterous or Wordpress, follow the prompts, and you'll be annoying cyberspace with your tales of overseas wondrousness in no time.