In my quest to be the most interesting man (to myself—I don’t really care too much what you think), I find myself struggling. Do I do all the interesting things that I want to do, or do I carve time out of my day to also share about those interesting things? It’s the struggle of the social media generation. How much can you do? And how much of that can you share? Or should you share?

This is a small dilemma that comes up often while traveling. I regularly show up in a new place, a new country, hell—even just a new café—and the very first thing I’m after is the wifi. I know it’s probably unhealthy, but I just can’t help it. Even the other day, I found myself having coffee with a friend (the founder of the gay culture website, Outlandic.com) in a café that pretentiously doesn’t offer free wifi—and seemed to actively encourage patrons against using their phones. I was annoyed for about two minutes, then I remembered: it’s okay, get off the internet.

coffee with notebook
Sometimes I have to get away from the internet, disconnect and just enjoy time away from any and all screens

What I want to try and solve, though, is how to continue doing interesting things, having interesting conversations and taking time away from screens—all while still enjoying and appreciating my very digital life. Is that even feasible these days? Or is it even a good idea?

I honestly don’t know. I think it’s a struggle we all have. I remember last month, when a flurry of travel articles came out spewing different 2015 travel trends—there was one that stood out: travelers’ desire to “disconnect.” Apparently, 2015 will be the year that we won’t mind after all if a hotel doesn’t offer free wifi, and it’ll also be the year we purposely take a holiday to get away from our Facebook accounts. That’s an idea I could get on board with.

So far this year, I’ve started to actively disconnect from social media. Maybe you’ve noticed since my earlier rant about how I want to blog better: I won’t let this blog or my social media get in the way of me doing things. Sure, I love to share—but even what I do share is just a small fraction of what I’m doing on any given day. This blog is only a part of my life. I travel, yes. And I blog, of course. But I also cook, I watch movies, I watch crappy TV series on Netflix. I stay up until 5 a.m. watching gay YouTube vloggers. As much as I love and value this blog, I don’t want it to be the only part of me. Just as I suspect your own social media use is just a part of who you really are.

There are a hundred million things I want to do. But there just isn’t enough time to do it all, let alone write about it or share about it on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. How are we supposed to balance being in the present, and being online all at once? This is a subject I’ve struggled with in the past in a phase when I really just didn’t enjoy photography. I purposely refused to take photos when at events, or when doing “interesting” things. I wrote this back in 2010:

I don’t know about you, but maybe we spend too much time trying to capture something (not even anything real, just a memory) and less time just… being? — Confession: I Take Too Many Photos

But that was 2010. Today, there’s Instagram and a hundred other apps and things to do to make sharing easier. Do you take too many photos? Do you share too much?

I do.

But it’s okay. Because I actually enjoy it. And I also know when to turn it off. Which is just as important as knowing when to turn it on. This year I’ve even gone entire afternoons (hey—it’s a start!) without using my smart phone. I leave it at home and go out for a walk, wandering the streets and looking up, instead of down. It’s refreshing to see the world not through a camera lens. To see the world in just a moment of my life, and to not share it. Besides, there’s always a story you could share afterward. But, there, then, in the moment—you’re okay. You keep it to yourself. You take the time to enjoy it, to see it—to really see it.

And then you can share it. Later. As a story. Because stories are good too, ones you share through the lens of memory. Maybe you get the story wrong in the retelling. Maybe there’s no photographic proof. But there’s the story. And that’s sometimes all you need.

social media week hamburg

Speaking of social media, this week I’ll be at the Social Media Week Hamburg event, speaking on a panel about travel journalism in our digital age. Check the event details here or view the socialmediaweek.org website for other international social media events happening in your area. Travels of Adam is an official media partner for the Hamburg event, so all week I’ll be sharing more stories about social media. Make sure you’re subscribed for more updates!

Travels of Adam - It's a blogLooking for a place to stay? I use HotelsCombined.com where you can easily compare hotel room rates and prices. Please note some posts do make me some money but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

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  1. This was really interesting to read, thank you! Social media and being too attached to my computer/phone/etc is definitely an issue I’ve had to deal with over the past few years. When I first started writing a blog, I took my phone and camera with me everywhere, just so I wouldn’t miss anything, and so I could instagram instantly. Recently, since starting my new blog, I think I’ve adopted a better structure to it; perhaps it’s better planned, so in turn that allows me to plan the time to spend on my blog. I am slowly learning (I think!) to disconnect. It will probably come with learning what content works and what doesn’t; what people want to see and what they don’t care about. Frankly, nobody cares that I’ve had spaghetti bolognese for dinner, so I can leave my camera in a cupboard and my phone on charge. It’s just nice to see that other people feel exactly the same way as me!

    • If you’re a food blogger, I can totally understand the challenge – how do you know which meals to photograph and which not to? If it’s a truly fantastic meal that you weren’t expecting to be so, so you didn’t take a photo, it must be really frustrating!

  2. Great read, Adam! I can fully relate to this. I am trying to disconnect more and more too, being aware that the time I spend online, could also be used for seeing and doing things, meeting people etc. Things that actually make you feel alive .. I truly think it’s some kind of addiction this online world, the need of constantly wanting to be fed by new photos, posts, information etc. In a way the net made life easier and more fun, but we shouldn’t forget about the fun and beautiful world around us!

    • Hey Lydia! It’s such a strange balance to deal with the internet and still find ways to disconnect—all while appreciating the amazing things the internet and social media has done for us! And I agree – I think the way much of our world works these days is very addictive.

  3. I’m with you on this. I love blogging, but I have so much else going on with my life that I can’t devote much time to it. There is a certain sphere of the blogging world which is devoted to page views – everything they blog about is angled towards getting more views, and they do all the right things to get attention on other social media platforms. There’s nothing wrong with that if you’re happy doing it, but I get the impression that some aren’t all that happy. I struggled with it for a long time; felt like I wasn’t achieving enough, wasn’t a good enough blogger. But actually, I prefer not spending all my time on the blog (or associated social media) It’s a hobby, along with all the other things I love to do (my Youtube weakness is American chatshows!) It has a place, but it cannot take over.

    • Excellent points Amy! My ultimate goals are usually about just being happy – and sometimes that’s having fun on social media but other times it isn’t. And that’s how I try to run my blog — in whatever way it’s most fun for me :) So far it’s working, but it is a challenge to remind myself that happiness is always the end game.

  4. Adam, I can really relate to this. That feeling of being connected all of the time but in essence actually being unconnected. Finding the balance between being online and sharing experiences without actually it taking away from enjoying those said experiences can be difficult – especially as a travel blogger. Real life is what happens off line. I’m awful at picking up my iPhone every two minutes to check Facebook etc. Even in the middle of a film – well, if it’s rubbish ;-)

    • Connected, but unconnected – it’s so frustrating! I deleted Facebook from my phone a few weeks ago and it was totally liberating. If I’m really feeling like I need to check it, I use the browser on my phone. But other than that – I try not to use it when I’m not at my computer.

      The next step is to actually keep myself logged out of Facebook on my computer. Even the simple act of having to log in will keep me away long enough to get better things done :)

  5. Loved this post adam, I agree with you that it is so hard to balance ‘social’ media that isn’t always that social, and the art of actually writing and experiencing what you’re looking at. We often talk about this and as a blogger, I tend to ‘turn off’ on the weekends after scheduling social media in advance during the week. This way I feel like my readers will get interesting content but also this means I actually am having time off as well. I think we all go through some pretty crazy love/hate feelings with this 24/7 we need to be connected madness.

    • Aww thank you Georgette… It seems turning things off on the weekends is more popular than I would’ve thought. It’s a habit I’m working on! I’ve definitely rebelled against the 24/7 thing – I just can’t be expected to be “on” all the time. It’s exhausting!

  6. Nice post Adam. It isn’t easy but a strategy that I use is not to go on-line at the weekend. I do see what’s going on on my phone but I tend not to respond unless I know them personally (yourself included) LOL! And if I’m abroad, I either write my posts before I go or when I return. My tip, take a little notebook.
    I’m a strong believer of a pencil!

    • Thank you Victoria! I try to avoid the internet, or at least email, on weekends, too – it makes me so much more at ease.

      I used to write a journal all the time but got out of the habit recently – though I got that green journal above in the photo a few weeks ago and have been using it more and more often. It’s a habit I really want to get back into!

  7. When I went backpacking in late 2013 I wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with being disconnected for much of the day. I didn’t get sim cards in most of the countries I visited, so I only had a connection at my hostels and at various cafés. The first few days felt weird, but then I felt liberated.

    I came to love not always having my phone vibrate on my leg, or sharing a photo as soon as I took it. I enjoyed my days, then in the evenings when I returned to the hostel I would share a few of my best photos from the day.

    Being back in Canada, I have become a bit too dependent on my tech again, but I have held on to some of the habits I learned while travelling. Since then my phone is always on silent. I don’t let it interrupt me, but pick it up when I’m curious. Sometimes that does result in me checking it a bit too frequently, but generally it’s freeing. I never have the phantom vibrations on my leg that some of my friends have. And while I may occasionally miss a call, if it’s important they’ll leave a message or send a text and I’ll call back.

    Good luck on changing your tech habits. It feels good to prove to yourself you’re not a complete addict.

    • Hey Paris,
      I love your idea about turning your phone completely on silent. Those phantom vibrations are frustrating and it sounds like a great solution. Going to start doing that!

      When I did my big backpacking trip around the world, I didn’t always have a phone or a SIM card either – it was a totally freeing experience.

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