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Vagabond Journey

Only Fools Value Facebook Connections Over Face to Face Interaction

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 [...]

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.

Am I easier to talk to now?

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.

Filed under: Culture and Society

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Rochester, New York

11 comments… add one

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  • Rich February 7, 2012, 1:30 pm

    You are so very right. Somehow people have allowed the internet to become their main source of intimacy. Very, very tragic indeed. I teach in the Emirates and I have seen girls in the mall here connected to no less than three instruments at at time! It is a world wide curse and there is more to this than meets the eye; Chinese slavery is what makes these gadgets affordable. How much misery is deliberately overlooked?

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    • Wade Shepard February 7, 2012, 2:21 pm

      Right on, this new digital communications movement is world wide, and, or so my impression, is much more vibrant in the middle and upper classes of “developing” countries than even in the USA or Europe. Yes, I’ve seen those girls in the mall with communications devices protruding from every side of them. It is amazing that Facebook has been able to strike such a deep chord in so many cultures of the world. It seems to draw on elements of social interaction that every culture knows, intensifies them, and then delivers them in a concentrated little stimulus package. I don’t know of a single country where the concept behind Facebook (or sites like it) is foreign and misunderstood. It’s one thing in the world that people just “get” almost regardless of culture. It is amazing and frightening. I like talking to people face to face, and so many of my peers seem lost in the social media abyss.

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  • cloudio February 7, 2012, 2:01 pm

    I agree 100%.
    It’s a trend began few years ago, when I still use to have a internet job and while I couldn’t wait to finish my job to interact with people around me or the place where I was, I was perplexed so many people wasting their days in the hostel on their pc, facebook, skyping or whatever

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    • Wade Shepard February 7, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Yes, this is an amazing social trend. It’s as if 90% of people from the “globalization” culture have became socially awkward and conversationally defunct almost overnight haha. I’ve observed many times that there is a very marked difference in conversational ability, availability, and engagement between people who depend on social media and those that don’t. The people that I become friends with tend to be those who don’t really use Facebook or other social media very much, and I don’t think that this is just a coincidence.

      There is also a big difference between working and playing on the internet. Work is work, and it often makes you socially restricted whether you’re a webmaster or flipping hamburgers. But those who choose to use the internet recreationally rather than interacting with the world around me truly leaves me almost in shock. It is absolutely amazing to me that someone can put in an entire shift of work on a computer and then be chomping at the bit to read Facebook or Twitter updates.

      I can’t wait to get off this computer each day haha!

      Thanks for the comment.

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      • jack February 13, 2012, 11:59 pm

        Ha! Just a thought, people who work on the net and then spend all of your recreation time on the net are like the people who work at McDonald’s and then hang out in McDonald’s in their free time. It doesn’t just need to apply to McDonald’s, it can apply to any kind of job. Maybe I should just call them losers.

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  • Bob L February 7, 2012, 2:57 pm

    I may be a bit of a Luddite, but I don’t even have a Facebook account.

    One thing to think about though, if this guy was working, maybe he had to finish up some actual work on his Facebook site before he could consider himself done for the day. Still, if it were me, I would save the Facebook work for later.

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    • Wade Shepard February 8, 2012, 10:39 am

      Yes, all these years into the Facebook craze and I still don’t get it. 99% static. I wish I didn’t have an account either.

      Yeah, he may have been “working” on Facebook, but I still feel the same.

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  • bernie February 13, 2012, 7:49 am

    Yeah i agree 100%.. Facebooks taken over some people!! Every time i went to check emails when in BKK all that came up on the guesthouse computer was Facebook! drove me mad!

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  • Durai February 28, 2012, 2:51 am

    Wade ,

    I somehow landed on your travel blog through google. I have to say that your’s was the most ‘hardcore’ and truly a travel blog that is both entertaining and at the same time informational. I’ve read your blog for an hour now , yet I feel I learned tons of stuff. Loved your article about sleeping outside while travelling . I’m going to travel at the end of the year leaving behind my family and friends, and like many would have said before to you, you’re going to be one of my idol.

    Thank you! I’m now one of your many fans!

    Durai
    Malaysia

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    • Wade Shepard March 4, 2012, 9:52 am

      Hello,

      Thanks for this note. Comments like this is what keeps me going after all these years. Thanks for this.

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