Who Are You Traveling For?

Camille Smith
February 17, 2016

Every time I go somewhere new, I get the same reaction from friends and family. “Can’t wait to see your Instagram!” or “Be sure to post lots of pictures!” And I, too, have said similar things to the people in my life on vacation or study abroad. It all comes from a good place. We’re genuinely excited for the people we care about to visit beautiful destinations and experience fantastic new things. In the age of social media, we’re able to keep up with everyone’s lives and see these things almost as instantly as they do. But at what point do these posts become inauthentic? I’m guilty of questioning my own motives when it comes to posting on social media, especially about my travels.

It’s true that I’ve always loved taking pictures. Even since my mom would give me one of those ancient disposable Kodaks to bring along field trips in elementary school. You know, the kind where you wind the little knob every time you found a worthy subject, but you really had to be picky because you only got about 25 shots. I always begged to be handed our old chunky digital camera on family vacations. I loved capturing every landmark, every new landscape, and every memorable moment. Then, though, it was about preserving the memories for myself or the others who shared those memories with me.

Now, our pictures suddenly become available to hundreds, even thousands of pairs of eyes. And when you’re publishing content for that many viewers, it’s hard to not to try to cater to what you think will get the most feedback, which comes in the form of likes and comments. I think there’s a fine line between sharing your experience with others, and crafting your experience for others. Even while typing this post, I’m subconsciously thinking about how people will react, and the best way to articulate my thoughts. Unfortunately, that’s inherent to how we communicate with others, especially across social media platforms. As much as we want to convey authenticity and personality, we fall into the trap of trying to please others.

Sometimes, though, I don’t know whom I’m trying to impress. I’m in such an incredible, magical part of the world, but my friends and I search for cafés with free Wi-Fi so we can refresh our social media. In these moments, while I’m buried into my phone, I’ve even caught myself thinking, This Instagram I posted didn’t get “enough” likes, what did I do wrong? It eventually occurred to me that my unhappiness didn’t stem from the amount of likes I was getting. It was because I no longer knew whom I was posting for, and I could feel the disparity between myself online and in reality.

I began to ask myself: Am I misrepresenting my experiences? What would I do if I couldn’t tell anybody about it? Where would I go if I couldn’t post pictures of it?

This completely changed the nature in which I went about planning my time abroad. I that think too often we get in the mindset of “doing it for the Insta,” which is our half-hearted way of admitting our millennial narcissism. It’s easy for our motivations to become muddled, especially as we compare ourselves to others. As if the number that pops up on our screen should somehow validate our sense of self, and be the remedy to our unhappiness and insecurities. True satisfaction will never come with a certain social media presence, just as it won’t with any other superficial matter. The feedback on the experience shouldn’t be the gratification we need. That’s not sustainable happiness. Experiences should be gratifying within themselves.

As I continue to reflect, I aim to stay true to who I am online, because I really do still love taking pictures and using social media. One of the greatest aspects of social media platforms is how they can be personalized. We can share bits of our individual personalities: our joys, our rants, and our senses of humor. I love posting what I’m up to, sharing what I’m passionate about, staying in touch with friends and family near and far. However, the problem is turning off that subconscious people-pleasing filter; something I think we could all improve on. And, ironically, I believe authenticity makes you more “likeable” in the end. I don’t need to convince others I’m happy to be content here. For me, it’s time to focus on my internal happiness taking precedent over this habit of seeking external validation. 

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Camille Smith

<p>Assalamu Alaikum, Bonjour, Hello! I&#39;m Camille and I&#39;m currently in my second year studying Political Science and International Studies at Loyola University Chicago. I&#39;m thrilled to be spending my semester in Rabat, Morocco and hope you all enjoy hearing about my journey! Expect bad puns and lots of pictures of food.</p>

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