I haven’t been posting a lot of pictures from Japan.
There are many good reasons to do it: to let friends and family know that I am fine, and having fun; to entertain the many people who tell me they are living this trip vicariously through me; to reflect on the day by looking and sorting through my pictures; and for future reminiscing. Although I am unlikely to go through all my pictures on stored media, I can easily scroll through a Facebook album, and have the comments that save me from wondering, what was the name of that place?
There are drawbacks, however. It takes time to go through the photos, and remember where and when, even if it has only been a few days. At times poor wifi can make uploading anything frustrating and time-consuming. (It was so bad in Egypt that I started my “I’m still alive” brief daily posts, a joke that has turned into a habit when I travel.) At times I will sit in my room or alone at a coffee shop, and what could I have been doing instead?
And here is the social media addiction issue. Although I will put “bad” photos of myself on Facebook or my blog if they tell a story, and I almost never put photos of myself on Instagram, I am still curating what I post to tell the stories as I see them. It may not be rainbows and unicorns, but it’s definitely positive. And I admit, I feel happy when I see Likes and comments. I restrict my Facebook posts to friends only, and I am selective about who I will add as a friend. If I have not met someone in person, and, more importantly, if I wouldn’t look them up if I was in their area, I don’t “friend” them. But still, I feel a small ego thrill when I get acknowledgements.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. After all, I am often travelling solo, and my posts are a way to connect with family and friends at home. Although I am quite sociable, my inner introvert needs space alone to recharge, and that time going through my photos provides it. My blog is to practice writing, not to get approbation.
Although I haven’t been posting photos, I have certainly been taking them, and I’m conflicted about that, too. Being a tourist in Japan, the epicentre of selfie culture, has solidified my feelings. I see people lined up for that ideal selfie spot, and young women cycling through their perfect Instagram poses as their friend takes the photos. But I don’t buy much when I travel, so pictures are my souvenirs. Yet how much do I miss while I’m framing my surroundings for a photo? Where does my resolve to live in the moment go, the moment I turn on my phone?
Sometimes travel seems to be more about the perfect picture than the experience. At Mount Fuji, tourists groan in disappointment if clouds cover the summit, although apparently that is the case over 80% of the time. In Egypt, the sky had been hazy when we visited the Pyramids. There were several people on my tour who skipped an activity to rush back for another try at the perfect picture, and when they had the selfie photo with the blue sky background they said their trip was now complete.
I try to find a balance. Take a few photos, then put the phone away and just look around. Focus on senses other than sight to take in my surroundings. Talk to people. Choose to participate rather than watch and snap pics. Stop and just breathe.
I’ll try to remain thoughtful about how I document my brave travels.