Tweet on Travel?

21 04 2009

I like to think of myself as rather up on the latest technologies, though I know this is a total fallacy. In fact, though I consider myself “hip to tech,” I instead tend to be nearly the opposite. I don’t have an iPhone (my phone, at that, is a piddly, very old model, my iPod even older), it took me forever to start blogging, though I am on Facebook, I’m rather resistant (have never written a status update, don’t search for people I know there…) and the list goes on. Meaning that basically my tech savvy lies in knowing HTML and using the internet for all things efficient.

Which is why I have yet to join the ranks of the latest technology, which seems to me far from efficient. Yes, I have a Twitter account. I actually signed up long ago, before it was as huge as it is now, which places me on the forefront of the Twitter revolution, right? Wrong, if you consider that I have not tweeted a single thing in the months I’ve been signed up. I do, however, have 25 followers, and counting, none of whom know (at least not from Twitter) when I’m enjoying the sunshine, or in a contemplative mood or, for that matter, filing my nails.

Which brings me to Twitter and travel. The Twitter-obsessed, it seems, Tweet all the time, everywhere. While I recognize that Twitter is fun and that there is definitely value to certain updates, for the most part I feel it also has the tendency of making the mundane ubiquitous, and of being a total time suck.

The other day, when I saw a BootsnAll article about Twitter while traveling, I was intrigued. The article responds to a World Hum advice column piece by Rolf Potts, who answered the question, “Should I update friends and family by Tweeting while traveling?” with a decisive “no,” which was, predictably, followed up by countless responses, comments on Rolf’s own piece. World Hum then placated those tweeting travelers with a response giving tips from travelers who do like to Tweet. The BootsnAll article I came across that dragged me into this fray was essentially ad “live and let live” response to all the responses

I find the whole thing rather fascinating. First, there’s this main, overarching point of technology itself, since here is all this online discussion of the decision to “online discuss.” And here I am adding yet another voice to it all. In some senses, it is heartening, a sense of community in a way. Even though the opinions on the subject differ, it makes for interesting reading and interesting conversation on a topic that is, well, topical right now. It’s yet another means of making opinions and information ubiquitous.

As for the whole, Tweet during travel debate, though, I think I have to agree with Potts. While I do enjoy blogging while traveling, which some might argue is the same thing, I feel like there is a difference. A blog is like a mass communication, like sending a semi-descriptive missive to all those at home who want to know what’s happening with me and what sorts of adventures (or misadventures) I’m experiencing. While in theory Twitter does the same, there isn’t much one can convey in one line of text, so I’d guess it takes away from the experience without adding to much to those not experiencing, while a blog or an email is a way to relive certain aspects of the trip, almost a form of public journaling. And, since Tweeting is more immediate and shorter, I’d guess there is the risk of doing it more often, which means attention is focused on Tweeting about the experience rather than actually experiencing it (while with a blog or email, that time is explicitly focused on said task and on recalling, an experience, rather than relating it while it happens). Potts also mentions my favorite form of communication while traveling: the oft-overlooked postcard, the original travel communication and a memory in itself, which merits its own later post.

Ultimately, I agree that Ms. Spiegel of BootsnAll has a point: there are, in fact, all kinds, and what’s right for me isn’t going to be right for the next person. I travel far differently than my sister does. Likewise, she has 300+ Facebook friends while I have barely 70. It all comes down to what you like and what you do. But for me, I’d go with Potts and advise all those Tweeters out there to strongly consider resting their fingers over the course of their travels to fully immerse themselves into the experience, without the cocern of sending minute by minute updates home. Not that they asked me in the first place…

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