Don’t worry: I’m not going to tell you never to post on social media again. I’m on Facebook and Instagram more than most people I know!
Instead, I’m proposing this: when you’re having an amazing experience, take the “insta" out of Instagram.
I know: You saved up and planned extensively for your trip, put up with long plane rides and bumpy bus rides —- you’ll be damned if you don’t show off the epic view you came for. You should! I told you myself that I was looking forward to your posts!
But social media has a way of becoming an end in itself, a reason to do things instead of a way to share them. You end up doing it for the “likes” and to brag instead of for your own growth. As a social media addict and a person who happens to make and share images for a living, I've struggled with this!
But living in the moment - being fully immersed in it - is the only way to get the full experience of something. It’s impossible to get swept up by an experience if you keep interrupting the moment to Instagram it. I’ve learned that, as my hero Rolf Potts says, “Telling the story is not nearly as important as living the story.”
But like any bad habit, you need a conscious effort to overcome the urge to instantly share things. Here are my humble suggestions for relearning how to live in the moment:
1. Break free of your addiction to “likes.”
If your primary pleasure out of doing cool things is the “likes” you’ll get out of it, you are robbing yourself of the full experience, and, worse, you are bragging about an experience you’re not actually having. Don’t be a Facebook faker (#14 on this list):
Don’t let the selfless human desire to share a good experience devolve into a selfish exercise in attention-seeking. That seemingly harmless habit of stopping what you’re doing to photograph it, then uploading it to your social networks, then constantly checking back to see how many “likes” you’re getting —- it breaks your connection to the moment 100% of the time. You mind is on the Internet, not where you’re standing. So while you brag to others about what an amazing time you’re having seeing the Pyramids, even with some profound rumination on life written as a caption, you are, ironically, not seeing the Pyramids.
2. Post at the end of the day instead of in the moment.
The ubiquity of mobile Internet means you can be in a remote location and still instantly post something. I’ve been and am still guilty of this!
Remember, too, it really is rude constantly to have your phone out when you’re with other people. Sadly, I notice that we in the Philippines are more prone to this than all the other countries I’ve been to this year! Instead, why not try to appreciate and share that moment with whomever you happen to be with? If you’re traveling absolutely solo, well, why not bask in the solitude you yourself chose to take on?
A simple remedy to this is posting at the end of the day, for example, during your alone time in the hostel or the bus ride back. You not only get to stay in the moment when it happens, but you also have the perfect chance to reflect and bring some insight into what you eventually post.
3. Learn from the best: Post less, and only the best stuff.
I know your trip to Japan/Iceland/New Zealand/Palawan is life-changing and that’s awesome! And I know your friends are bugging you to upload your group selfies and tag ‘em all. But do you really need to post 6 photos in a row? And 10 photos in one day?
Looking at my personal heroes who are on Instagram - hardcore adventurers who are master image-makers like Cory Richards and Renan Ozturk (self-described “storytellers and Instagram addicts at heart”) - reveals that they actually don’t post a constant stream of photos over the course of the day. Probably because they’re too busy doing the actual things that made them successful: being phenomenal athletes and artists. Fully in the moment, because if they’re not, they could fall off 20,000-foot mountains!
They post one to three photos a day, often less, and often long after they were taken. The 1% of people who live the most epic lives on Earth never Insta-spam, and almost never post in real time.
Remember: less is more. Make people more curious about what you’re doing by posting less, rather than lose their interest by posting too much.
How do you decide what to share? The best social media posts have one thing in common: they have something beautiful, funny, or interesting to impart, whether it’s a story, a moment captured, or an insight. They aren’t out there just for attention, but they end up getting a lot of it because they’re worth the attention. Ask yourself, “What could people get out of this photo/status message/tweet?”
Of course, it’s your right to post whatever you want to and you shouldn’t care too much what other people think. But don’t pretend you don’t care about the audience when the whole point of social media is reaching an audience. Why even post it if it’s “only for yourself”? Even an everyday selfie becomes charming when paired with the right story, as illustrated by Taylor Freesolo:
4. Put. The camera. Down.
If you’re not a professional photographer/filmmaker traveling explicitly to make good images, I daresay it’s in your best interest to take the picture and get the phone/camera out of the way ASAP. The longer you look through the viewfinder or at the LCD, the less time you’re actually LOOKING AT THE THING.
You spend so much time looking at travel photos on the Internet at home, and when you're finally out there, you're still looking at a screen? Stop that!
This applies especially to rare, fleeting encounters. When I was in Ecuador, I went on a trip to see humpback whales for the first time. But I ended up with mediocre footage because I was shooting without looking at the LCD! I thought, if I wanted to look at whales on a tiny screen, I’d watch the BBC on my iPhone. But to see a massive humpback whale leap out of the water right before your eyes —- there is no photo or video in the world that can compare to that.
If you’re hell-bent on taking good pictures, consider going back only to take pictures. You can’t half-ass great photography. Amateurs get a few lucky shots, while pros take thousands to find that one that’s good enough, and do tons of preparation to get it.
5. Remember: invisibility is a superpower.
As Banksy once said: “I don’t know why people are so keen to put the details of their private life in public. They forget that invisibility is a superpower.”
Rediscover that superpower, and what you gain will be more life in every breath.