My latest question to ponder on this blog of mine: is social media helping or hurting travel?
I don’t actually have the answer to this question, but it’s one that’s crossed my mind a few times. I also recently came across an article in The New York Times that asked whether geotagging natural wonders on Instagram is doing more harm than good. Some say yes, according to the article:
“Now, conservationists are concerned that photographers who geotag their precise locations are putting fragile ecosystems and wild animals at risk. As a defense, they are asking tourists to stop.”
The article gives the example of Delta Lake in Wyoming, which used to get one or two hikers a day a few years ago. These days it has up to as many as 145 hikers, and not all of them act responsibly.
I’ve thought about this a few times, as I’ve ventured to a few geographically incredible places in the last few years, including Machu Picchu, the Atacama Desert, Torres del Paine National Park, Perito Moreno Glacier, the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. Some sites are certainly much more well-known and accessible than others, but all have seen an increase in tourists over the last few years, in some cases a drastic increase. And much of that can arguably be attributed to exposure via social media.
I will admit, I have absolutely seen something on Instagram and immediately thought to myself, “I need to go to there.” Sure, sometimes it’s photoshopped and saturated and made to look much more appealing than perhaps it is in real life, but sometimes it’s just as stunning if not more so in person. Either way, the visual appeal of that place on Instagram played a part.
Like with many other things, there are pros and cons. On the plus side, as someone who’s always been passionate about seeing the world, I love that social media inspires people to get out there and travel and experience other cultures. I feel like so many people are traveling now more than ever, due in part to Instagram and Facebook. They are seeing the value of having amazing experiences (or they just want to keep up with the social media Joneses...either one).
What sort of long-term effects social media will have on travel?
As for the cons, there is such a thing as overtourism, which is affecting a number of popular destinations around the world, and many are saying that social media is a driver of this. Places like Machu Picchu are seeing literally thousands of tourists each day but, as I learned during my time there, the number of visitors is creating a strain on the site itself, which is simply not equipped to hold as many people as it does for a sustained period of time.
I don’t think social media is going anywhere anytime soon (or is it?), so it begs the question of what sort of long-term effects social media will have on travel (and on society in general, of course).
It’s all definitely a mixed bag and a very grey subject matter.
What do you think? Is social media good for travel or not really?