Technology Ruining Travel?
I arrived in Hong Kong yesterday, checked into my hostel and went to the common area to finally get my bearings. There were four other people sitting in the lounge, two of them on their laptops, one on a iPad and the other on an iPhone. As I placed my keys and phone on the table I said “hello” only to be met with a brief nod of acknowledgement while everyone went back to their Facebook bubbles.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether how much of a negative influence technology has had on travel. If these people couldn’t clutch on to their friends back home, perhaps they would make a better effort to be present. I am guilty, too, of standing outside a Starbucks in order to scam free wifi so I can text someone from home or upload my latest picture to Twitter. I understand the fear of missing out on things back home. But I’m starting to question how much of this addiction to being, and keeping everyone I know, in the loop is affecting my travels.
Photography is one of my passions and I love to capture photos of the places I visit. But so often I see other tourists hidden behind their bulky SLRs and I wonder if they ever take a moment to look at anything just through their own eyes. You see, in the past getting film developed was relatively expensive, so I imagine people were a lot more conservative with the number of photos they took. More attention and time would have gone into deciding to ‘invest’ into the shot. These days images are cheap, you can walk around being as trigger happy as you like, employing a more hit and miss approach to photography. There are certain places I’ve visited such as Angkor Wat and The Eiffel Tower, that were littered with hoards of photographers pounding down on their shutter speed – so many that I didn’t bother to take photos myself.
There’s little need to look at a real map when you can let your smart phone’s map application show you the fastest route in real time. I have spent days in a city without getting a real feel for the layout, because sometimes I chose to be blindly led by my phone. There’s some magic in getting lost somewhere, in having to navigate streets that are filled with foreign names, trying to ask directions when you don’t speak the language – this is all beauty, hidden in difficulty, that we are not allowing ourselves.
Before I had an iPhone, I remember going to a dinner with a friend of a friend and some of his coworkers in Thailand. We went to a very nice restaurant, it was very popular and trendy. All of the tables were full and once we had ordered I noticed that everyone at my table pulled out their smart phones and conversation died off. As I looked around the restaurant, I realised I was in the minority. I saw people obviously on dates, with each person so engaged with their phone that there wasn’t even a hint of acknowledgement of the other person’s existence.
Despite all of the advantages technology provides, being constantly connected to technology can’t be a good thing. When you plug in your ear phones and put on some music you’re skimming away a layer of the life around you; the daily rituals of Muslim prayers, the sound of birds chirping, the chaos of the hustle and bustle of the people around you – you are missing out.
Do you think technology is ruining travel?