Throughout the backpacker district of Cartagena, Colombia nearly all of the hotels had little stickers in their window for a hostel booking site called Minihostels.com. I had never heard of this site before, and it was obvious that a rep from this company was traveling around to all the hostels, visiting with the owners, and forming partnerships. This was something similar to what I once done for Hobohideout.com, and I kept my eyes open for the person who was doing it. It is good to meet your brethren on the road, share and take notes.
One night I walked into my hotel and a guy was standing behind the desk rocking a laptop that had a big “Minihostels.com” sticker on it. This was the guy. He was working, so I set up my laptop rig in the lobby and did a little work myself waiting for him to be finished. I checked his site and realized that Vagabondjourney.com gets far more traffic, but his partnership model of going around to the hotels and hostels in person could have been something I could learn from. We perhaps could have been mutually beneficial to each other.
At the appropriate moment I walked up and introduced myself. The Minihostels.com guy told me that he was the owner of the company, and we chatted for a moment about the traveling webmaster profession. Then he stopped short and asked if we could continue our conversation in a moment so he could close down shop and finish work for the night.
No problem. I returned to my rig and began shutting down as well. I was set up behind the Minihostels guy and could glance at his screen. The telltale design of Facebook stood boldly on it. I waited a moment and packed up my things. 15 minutes went by. He was still on Facebook.
I suddenly lost all interest in continuing our conversation. I walked out of the hotel lobby, not to see the Minihostels guy again.
Any person who values Facebook connections over face to face interaction is not someone I wish to invest any time of my life into. Each day I have the option to talk with 10s, 100s, sometimes even thousands of new people. I walk through the streets looking for people to say hello and talk with. When someone would rather stare into a screen of cliche quotes, party photos, cryptic status updates, read about the life crises of weirdos with too much time on their hands, or find out who is now friends with who, than look me in the face and have a conversation, I walk away in search of someone else to talk with.
Facebook is a powerful networking tool, it is an excellent way to keep in touch with exponentially more people than a person could otherwise — especially for a traveler — but for far too many Facebook is a disease, an obsession, an addiction, an outlet for anti-social behavior, a safety net for the socially awkward. All too often the stimulation of Facebook usurps the stimulation of face to face interaction. You see this everywhere the globalized aspects of culture congregate socially: people checking Facebook on their phones as a conversational aid or as a way to avoid talking with the people around them
It takes effort to have a conversation with someone, it takes thought and time to come up with things to say, to ask questions, to probe deeper into the person sitting right before you. This pressure is all too often removed when interacting on social media, and it is becoming normal for my peers to take the easy route. The art of conversation is becoming an archaic skill, a relic of days gone by when talking to people alone was a prime form of entertainment.
If you cut off a conversation to update your Facebook status, you are a product of your times, and I want nothing to do with you. This may sound harsh, but I don’t wish to invest the time of my life into waiting for people who are wasting theirs. There is no bigger f’ck you than someone who would rather look at a Facebook status update than talk to you in person. This should be a new point of etiquette that parents should teach to their children — like chewing with your mouth closed or not interrupting someone when they’re talking. Too bad many of these parents are too busy zoning out on Facebook as well.
One of the prime skills of travel is the art of conversation. Now the hostel common rooms are full of people absconding into Facebook without the need to develop the connections in the face to face world, reach out and say hello to a stranger. Something of value in travel is being lost.