Before the pandemic, the most stressful thing about travelling was finding affordable flights and accommodation before dealing with layovers once you start your journey.
That wild dash to the next gate will likely to take 10 years off your life.
Now it’s a little different. You have to weigh up the risks, check out the COVID-19 numbers in the country that you’re heading to, and prepare your PPE.
In South Africa, we aren’t travelling overseas at this juncture, but that could change at some point. We can travel inter-provincially, though, and the hospitality industry is up and running again.
As if all that planning and fear wasn’t enough to deal with, you’ll have to suffer through what everyone else thinks about your trip thanks to a new social media trend: ‘travel shaming’.
Sarah Archer (below) told CNN that she wanted to get to her boyfriend in Switzerland, which was difficult with an American passport.
During her travels, she says that she tried to do everything as legally and safely as possible. Then she wrote an article about what she was up to and shared posts on her Instagram account which didn’t go down well.
[She] was surprised to receive direct messages from a few friends asking whether she really needed to be traveling right now.
“They asked me if it didn’t seem irresponsible and selfish to travel at this time,” she said. “I asked myself: ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ You question yourself.”
Archer isn’t the only one questioning her choices and modifying her behaviour in response to social media shaming.
“You see upticks in shaming when people are desperate to get everyone to adhere to some norm, and when there’s unlikely to be any enforcement of that norm through official channels,” says Krista Thomason (below), a Swarthmore College associate professor of philosophy and author of “Naked: The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life.”
“Many people canceled vacations or canceled trips to see their loved ones. When they see others enjoying nonessential travel, they may be angry, envious and feel that it’s not fair,” says Thomason.
“People feel like they’ve given up things that are important to them, so they’ll naturally be upset to see that others haven’t done the same.”
The evidence for the effectiveness of shaming is mixed. If you post a picture of an overcrowded area on social media there’s no guarantee that everyone in the image will know that they’ve been shamed.
“Now, if I share a photo of my recent vacation and people shame me for my nonessential travel, I might come to realize my mistake,” she adds. “But I might just as easily get angry that these people are trying to tell me how to live my life.”
In other words, it’s a mess.
Then there are those who really don’t care about shaming like Lee Abbamonte, a travel expert and blogger.
“I’m past the point in my life of caring,” says Abbamonte, who just turned 42. “Aside from the fact that travel is my life, my passion and my job, I do it safely and responsibly and do the testing.”
Some, like travel expert Gary Leff, think that sharing travel pictures could serve a positive purpose.
“If we’re ever going to get back to normal or establish how the new normal looks like, it’s going to be by seeing how people live,” he says. “Our online lives are substituting for being in-person. So online sharing becomes more important rather than less in the current environment.”
Look, Twitter shaming, cancelling, and general outrage on social media isn’t anything new.
What seems to be happening here is a transfer of the rage that we’re all dealing with when we encounter an anti-masker, or an idiot who believes that the pandemic isn’t real. It feels like until everyone does their part, we’ll be trapped in this ‘new normal’ forever.
Is it worth shaming someone for their travel choices?
Ask yourself if you can spare the energy.
Chances are it’s not worth it.
You can read more tales of travel shaming here.
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