Why you should switch off: How social media could ruin your holidays

By now we know that looking at a screen for too long can ruin your eyes and is also very stressful for the brain. Social media is as addictive as a drug. Some employers are doing everything they can to educate their employees about taking a break. But when we physically take a break from work and go on a holiday somewhere, do we really switch off if we are constantly on our smartphones the whole time?

I recently travelled around Switzerland with my parents and that’s when it hit me again. I looked around at all our fellow tourists who were constantly taking photos. One girl took 25 photos at the top of a freezing, windy mountain just to get the perfect one for her instagram. I decided to take shelter with a beer and watch the insanity from inside. I mean, did they actually enjoy that experience? Was that worth it?

I guess you kind of expect “younger people” to be taking selfies. Perhaps I can say I was “lucky enough” to be old enough to go on a trip when we didn’t have phones or international roaming plans. But the thing that struck me, was that now my parents were also taking photos “for facebook”. I don’t think it is in the same way that we might use it, as they told me they use it to share their holidays with their friends and family all over Australia. They needed to take photos outside certain places to show to people who had recommended them to you. It’s nice in one way, yet the very fact that this is something that is expected from you on holiday made me thankful that the same was not expected of me. But it certainly seemed like my parents care more about facebook more than I do!

I’ve noticed a steady decline in the number of people around my age using Facebook. I used to also use it to share and store travel photos, but with cloud options available that keep your pictures in high quality like Dropbox, Flickr and Google Photos, I have stopped sharing massive albums of my holidays and life in Berlin. Do people really want to look through them anyway? Isn’t it the modern day equivalent of making someone sit through your slide projection upon your return home? (Extra points if you even know what I’m talking about!).

The main reason we share travel photos now is for this blog. I also have an appreciation for a solid photo curated especially for Instagram; one that represents the trip in the best way. If it’s on my personal instagram, that’s for myself, my memories, mostly. Occasionally it sparks conversation from one of my friends who wants to visit where I’m going. But you can’t say you’re being honest with yourself if you don’t admit that photos for your blog are a kind of marketing material. We also thought about starting a Pinterest, but then I read that your pinterest photos are 30% more popular if they don’t have a face in them. Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t think social media could get much more faceless!

Don’t get me wrong – having a phone and internet access has its merits, it definitely helped us out of a few pickles and made finding our way around a lot easier. I remember my first ever trip to Europe, we were standing on the street in Berlin trying to work out the paper map the hostel had given us, all of a sudden a stampede of cyclists came towards us, ringing their bells furiously. Yes, we were standing in a bike lane. I don’t miss those situations at all! We also used the GPS a few times to find our hotel in the Swiss towns and despite having a GPS in our car, Google still proved to be the most reliable and up to date map system.

A few of the places we visited in Switzerland were quite big, like Interlaken, where Blair searched for the cool bars to wade our way through the touristy areas. Other places like Zermatt were so small that we didn’t need to do so, you could just walk up the street and see what was around. When we got to Lausanne at the end of our trip, we went to an amazing restaurant I found using my phone, but then later on found in a pamphlet Dad had. I also scoped out the shopping area on my phone, but if we followed the receptionists instructions we also would have found it. It was an interesting contrast between the way my Dad gained information and the way Blair and I did. Asking the hotel receptionists, reading information, walking around and getting the lay of the landscape. By the end of the trip, I’d left my google maps untouched and just used my eyes and ears to help me find my way.

Of course, if your parents are anything like my parents, they also hate it when you’re sitting at the table or out with them and you’re constantly on your phone. One of the cafes we went too actually said “No, we don’t have wifi, talk to each other instead”. It raises a brilliant point, one that is being adopted more and more by cafes and bars. Even though Blair was not with me for the whole trip, I made sure I was not letting my messages to him take away any real time from my holiday with my parents, especially since I had not seen them for almost a year and we live on the other side of the world to each other. Perhaps this heightened awareness helped me keep my phone usage to less than normal, but really it shouldn’t matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen one another. Time is a precious thing that you do not get back, so when we decide to give it to someone, we should do so with our full attention or not at all.  

Nowadays I’d call myself a reformed social media user. Back in 2014, I would post statuses, check in to where I was, post at least one photo per day… but life had other plans for me. I was recently single and relocating to London, via a month and a half long holiday through Spain, Italy, Greece and Croatia. I remember when my older cousin offered me a spot in his villa he had rented in Ibiza for free. As a 24 year old, I thought I had won the jackpot, but then he told me “the only condition of you staying is that you don’t post anything on Facebook. I saw one of your posts asking others “what’s your Monday like”? Other people don’t have the choice to go on fantastic holidays, so don’t brag, be grateful”. Four years later, his quote stuck with me. I never again posted something that didn’t center around gratitude for the amazing life I live.

Traveling with my parents was a timely reminder for me to make sure that I’m using social media for the right reasons when I’m on holiday. Make sure you’re doing it because you want to, not because you feel obligated to. Make sure you do it in a way which makes other people happy for you (and not jealous). And when you’ve made it to your destination, don’t forget to put your phone away and take in the atmosphere of a place and enjoy it with the people you’re with.


Do you “switch off” when you’re travelling? Or does social media still play a key part in your adventures? We’d love to hear from you!

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