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.
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?
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.
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!