Leaving social media behind: did I even go travelling ?

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Ditching the DSLR for a disposable and the Snapchat geo-filter for… well, nothing! Why I said farewell to social media till I returned home.

In the beginning of August, I decided to travel around Europe for a few weeks. I went on my own for the first time; booking the cheapest flights I could find and sleeping in an array of Airbnb’s, friend’s sofas and a very questionable hostel.

I made the decision to not use social media during my time. By that I mean: no posting photos, no sending Snapchats, no statuses or checking in. I sporadically logged into Facebook to communicate with my family and close friends and checked my emails once every night.

Why? For some, this may seem like a form of torture, like I’m punishing myself for no reason. Some may see this as – futile perhaps. After all, I’m back on social media now, so what was the point?

The point is – why should social media be such a significant part of travelling? Why, when I went to all these different countries, did social media have to come with me?

I quickly noticed that I wasn’t even paying attention to these stunning places I had the privilege to see. I was (prepare for the cliche) living my life through a lens. It’s an easy habit to fall into: I watched dozens of tourists flock into the market square in Brussels, for them to take selfies and tell their social media-pals where they were. Then they left. Did they really take the time to appreciate the architecture? No. Did they actually know what they were looking at? Most likely not. Did they make sure they snap chatted every single moment of it? Absolutely.

When I visited Manneken Pis, the famous statue of a little boy peeing, an English couple barged passed me – got their camera out and struck a pose to make it look like the boy was peeing into the tourist’s mouth. Now, I know my humour is dry, but at this point, I was just annoyed. Had they really came all this way- just to get that picture? I was pissed off. See… I am funny.

The realisation that I had done the exact same thing hit me hard. It’s difficult to admit that what you’re doing is, by no means wrong, but hyper superficial and well… Pointless. When I tried to speak about how consuming social media is with my friends, I was hit by the same defensive responses:

“ Yeah, well I don’t really use it that much”

“ I only have like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Oh, and Twitter!”

But this is not a critique. This is me outright admitting that I am as bad as most other people- or at least was.

So, I left my DSLR at home and bought a £5 disposable from the airport. You only have 27 photos, so that endless stream of pictures and videos that I used to take when travelling, well – that wasn’t an option anymore. I appreciated what I was taking a photo of. I only got my camera out when I was truly in awe. Then, when it’s done, there’s no looking back it. No taking another one because you “wasn’t smiling probably”, no applying filters, no cropping or rotating. It’s done. What you capture is that exact moment. For me – that’s pretty breathtaking.

What came as a shock to me but in reality shouldn’t have. Is that half of my friends and even some of my family members didn’t even know I was away. Highlighting how dependent we have become on social media to inform us what other people are doing. Even if these people are people we consider to be our friends. The art of direct communication is scarily dying out.

One of my closest friends messaged me saying: “You’ve done so well to not post anything so far”. I didn’t know how to interpret this. You might hear the same phrase being said in an AA meeting to patronisingly congratulate someone being 3 days sober.
“Hi, I’m Liam. I’m 20 years old and I’m a Facebook-aholic.”

Yet again, the idea that we’re expected to show off every (positive) moment in our life onto social media was reaffirmed. It felt like I had borrowed Harry’s invisibility cloak, in the best way possible. My new sense of freedom and anonymity made me kind of smug and helped me pin point the true reasons why we use social media so much.

1. Boredom
2. Validation
3. Habit

If you want to wean yourself off social media and are looking for some tips on how to do so. Here is what I did:

1. Mute your notifications.

No notifications = no reason to go on your phone to check them, then spend the next hour meaninglessly scrolling through your timeline.

2. Stop worrying what other people are doing.

I know it’s easier said than done. Be selfish. Care about yourself and not what other people are up to. The less you care about where your neighbours-friends-mums-colleague went to for dinner last night; the less you will have that urge to jump on social media.

3. Distract yourself.

We are all masters of procrastination. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I’m not going to say instead of going on Facebook – do some revision (although, you probably should). There are lots of things out there that can help you put your phone down. For example, cooking, reading, writing, drawing, etc.

4. Stop lying to yourself.

Our social-media facades can be very comforting. Our Instagram story tells a very different one to our reality. Do not get caught up living in this filtered- world. Stay humble and stop caring what others think.

So here is the ironic ending you’ve been waiting for. You’ve probably found this post while scrolling endlessly down your timeline. I will more than likely share this post onto all my social media accounts.

My point isn’t that we should ditch social media altogether. My point is that sometimes social media doesn’t have a place. If you’re travelling, going out with your friends, or even spending an evening with your partner. Just remember- social media will still be there when you get back. I promise.

Words by Liam Gilliver

Hope and Vicky are your lifestyle editors.

1 Comment

  1. Joanne peace

    August 19, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Wownthat was an absolute amazing piece it really did get me thinking and it will make me think twice about when and how I use my social media and who for. Amazing writer.

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