In the age of social media, more and more are posting about their travel adventures. Perhaps you have noticed this too? Or maybe you are among those posting about travel? A 2015 Adweek article by Kimberlee Morrison notes that 76 percent of users upload their vacation photos to social networks. Morrison also points out how those planning a vacation will often like or follow pages related to their upcoming travel.
A March 2017 Forbes feature by Jimmy Rohampton suggests Millennials look to social media to not only plan their vacation but what to actually do when they arrive. Rohampton cites Morrison’s article, saying Millennials often dream about traveling while on social media. This could be looked at in two ways, the simplest being, as Rohampton mentions, that Millennials are not accustomed to living in a time without the internet. If they want to vacation, they use the internet to research popular spots, book flights, reserve hotel rooms, and so on.
The other side is as presented in the Ford 2018 Trends Report, where nearly half of the respondents between 18 and 29 say social media makes them doubt themselves. That finding appears under the report’s “Mending the Mind” category, which also reveals 65 percent of those 18 to 29 feel more stressed today than a year ago. Could the constant social media streams be a factor? And could that depression manifest itself through escape fantasies disguised as seemingly harmless travel plans?
We look hard at Millennials here, but any generational cohort can fall into this; consider today’s travel postings on social media yesterday’s columns on the topic in the newspaper. As a Generation Xer, I can relate, although I tend to gravitate toward music to let my stress go, but things like this are relative. If I cranked up Lithium, Sirius XM 34, to show my rebellious nature, I’m hardly different than someone in the Swing Era who spent their evenings in the company of Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway, and Benny Goodman. The thought of dancing to those loud orchestras in a fine suit with a beautiful dame!? Jackleg degenerates the whole of them!
But seriously, members of my generation are on social media too. And if Millennials are fantasizing about travel when using social media, then it’s likely other generational cohorts are too. Given that we know the link between social media and depression, are we surfing through, looking at photos of the beach, and wishing that were somehow our own reality? Or photos of other people and wishing we were them? If the answer is yes, it might be time for a social media break in 2018 with, of all things, a vacation. A vacation from social media.
My only personal social media presence is through Facebook. That is to say, was through Facebook. Like many, I enjoyed keeping up with my friends, seeing who was getting engaged, or who was expecting a child, or which car they were going to tinker with next. Through Facebook, I could keep up with them as they lived their lives.
Then the darker side.
As one photographer friend of mine puts it, everything bad in this world is given a microphone through social media. Don’t fit in at school and are different? Now the world is closing in, one heartless comment at a time. Struggling to make ends meet and fighting to stay afloat? One swipe down the news feed feels like everyone’s grass is infinitely greener, even if they overly polish that white picket fence to convince others it’s really that glossy. Don’t subscribe to a certain religious, cultural, or political viewpoint? Well. Watch out.
Historic Theaters & Shopping Bins
My breakup with social media has taken some time, admittedly. The wheels began turning in late 2016 when I attended a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee with my dear friend Olivia. About halfway through Chris Janson’s set, I realized my face was buried in Snapchat the entire time. I was at the greatest venue in country music, but spending more time looking at my phone sending pictures than enjoying the concert. The thing is, most everyone else in there my age was doing the same thing. It was only the older country fans who were watching the stage, their hands devoid of any cellular device.
At that point in time, I was more concerned with what my friends thought of my stellar seats. I pictured telling my grandchildren one day, “I had the best seats in the house but didn’t really see Janson perform Buy Me A Boat or any other song.” When people asked me how the show went, I felt slightly wrong telling them it was awesome, since I spent half of it on Snapchat. Imagine telling those on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in 1969 their Bic lighters were about to be replaced by something called an Android. Imagine the responses you might get. “Here, watch Jefferson Airplane and Joe Cocker through this handheld screen.”
Another critical moment came on a recent “Christmas shopping date” that involved Meijer and Hot Wheels cars. Random, I know. You know you’re from Michigan when you take her to Meijer to look at Hot Wheels. The date was a blast and we ended up digging through a bin with hundreds of Hot Wheels inside. Literally hundreds. A treasure trove of goodness. People passed by with their carts, looking at us like we were crazy, but you haven’t seen anything until you see a Michigan girl dig through a bin of toy cars with nicely manicured nails.
We found a Corvette Z06, Pontiac Firebird, Ford Raptor, and a Dodge Charger. I posted a picture of our impressive horsepower finds on my Facebook page and almost immediately regretted it. Even though it was a run to Meijer, something we Michiganders do on the daily, a level of intimacy was lost. When we are tempted to broadcast everything on social media, it can leave few memories for ourselves.
Making The Cut
But Carl, you need social media to be successful and to network, and to find jobs. No, you don’t. People were successful long before the digital age. Entire industrial empires from Ford to Boeing to Standard Oil were built before computers. Automoblog, like many other publications, has the usual social media channels for marketing and promotion, but I do not run them. We have a dedicated staff member responsible for our social media. Despite holding a partnership in our parent company (Gearhead Media LLC.) and our Detroit desk, I don’t know the password to our Instagram account. I don’t want to.
Here at home, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is the highest-paid player in the National Football League and he has not a single social media account. Jennifer Lawrence, star of the popular Hunger Games series, tells People “if you ever see a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter that says it’s me, it most certainly is not.” Actress Kate Winselt believes social media forces young women to mold themselves into something they are not so they will be accepted. Perhaps this is partly why the World Health Organization finds depression is more common in women?
What continues to alarm is how we may be looking through our feeds to escape our circumstances; that is worrisome. And like many others, I have fallen victim to that too. But not anymore. In 2018, my resolve is to not live through a social media lens. If I travel, I will focus simply on the beauty of the scenery rather than trying to upload photos of it. Should I see a show, I will enjoy the music rather than trying to post a quick video to my story. If I go on a date (let’s hope), I will have the freedom to enjoy that intimacy, without worrying about how many “likes” I get.
“I like having privacy,” Stafford told ESPN Staff Writer Michael Rothstein in August. “I like having a personal life.”
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and the Society of Automotive Historians. He serves on the board of directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, is a past president of Detroit Working Writers, and a loyal Detroit Lions fan.