If you don’t post about your ADV riding, you don’t exist?
ADV is all about motorcycling, freedom, and discovering new places. At the same time, as adventure motorcycling community, industry, and subsequently, media, grow, so does the entire online ADV world. And it’s no bad thing – from blogs and vlogs to forums and sites like the ADV Rider, from social media to YouTube channels, all this online content can be helpful, useful, inspirational, or supportive.
However, during my recent gigs as a freelance motorcycle tour guide, I noticed a funny trend. I had three very different groups of people I took on moto adventures in Ecuador and Colombia, but the one thing they all had in common was severe smartphone dependency. The minute we’d get off the bikes, phones would come out, either to snap pictures or to post them online, then browse for comments and shares.
So what, right? This is the brave new world of social media and online claims to fame; it’s not exactly news. The fact that social media is addictive and disruptive isn’t news either. And, at the end of the day, plenty of adventure motorcyclists are so present on social media because that’s a large part of how they attract sponsors, work, or free products.
I am no exception either. Being active online is pretty much in my job description. In fact, even with the motorcycle tour gigs, I’m required to post, not just lead the tours. It’s never explicitly required but always sort of implied, and after a day’s ride, once everyone’s at the hotel safe and sound, bikes parked, chains lubed, tomorrow’s briefing completed, even then you can’t just have a cerveza and chill a little – you’ve got to edit photos and videos, come up with witty captions, and create content online, because if you don’t post, did it even happen?
And still, I can’t even count the times where I wanted to snatch people’s phones away. Evenings in small Andean towns when the sun sets behind the snow-capped mountains yet people are logging in to Facebook instead of admiring the view; afternoons in the Amazon just miles away from an active volcano when you can see smoke and bursts of sparks coming out of the crater but everyone’s busy counting their Instagram followers; lunches and dinners with delicious local food and friendly hosts, completely ignored because people are photodocumenting their plates and updating their social feeds.
And again, in a way, I’m guilty of this – to an extent – too. But is there a line we should all draw when it comes to smartphones and posts? And is there a way to ADV online without taking away from real-life rides and adventures?
Just Put the Phone Down
Easier said than done, but here’s the thing: you know what happens when you don’t post on social media for a few days?
When I took my dad to Cuba last year, I was worried I’d miss out on opportunities because I wouldn’t be able to be online as much. Cuban WiFi is tricky – you can only access the internet when you purchase a special card, and only in designated spots throughout the cities and towns. Since this was supposed to be an adventure holiday for my dad, not me, I wanted to accommodate him first and foremost, so running around Havana or Trinidad looking for WiFi spots weren’t exactly high on the agenda. Instead, it was all about getting a rental car, exploring Cuba’s small fishing towns with my dad, showing him around, and sampling local cuisine.
I did my best, but I still had this low-level anxiety because I was offline most of the time. I worried I’d miss out on things and ideas, opportunities or exposure, or that, perhaps, I would be missed.
But guess what actually happened? Absolutely nothing. A week of being offline did not affect my personal, professional, or moto life in any way whatsoever. Being unable to connect to the internet while in Cuba had zero effect on real life – in fact, it was an incredibly positive experience as I had time to clear my head, get some perspective, and thoroughly enjoy the time with my dad.
So if you’re going on an adventure, do a little experiment. Just put the phone down and don’t look at any of your social media accounts for at least few days. It’s a little terrifying just how hard it can be, but give it a try – and see what happens.
On the other hand, social media is a great way to connect with your loved ones, especially if you’re going on a long ADV trip abroad. Facebook is one of the easiest ways to keep your friends and family updated. Still, is it worth spending an hour or two each day just to post dozens of photos and updates?
With a little planning, it’s entirely possible to forget the existence of your smartphone and just enjoy the ride, the scenery, and the people. Make a deal with your loved ones that you’d send them short text messages or quick email updates if they worry about you; or, carry a satellite tracker so they can watch your progress. Alternatively, block out time for posting: give yourself thirty minutes for online updates per day, and no more. Too often, people don’t just update their friends or chat to their loved ones; too often, we get lost scrolling mindlessly, checking other people’s feeds, or getting in pointless comment wars online. It’s nothing but a black hole for your time, energy, and attention. Avoid being sucked in by giving yourself a strict amount of time to be online – then log off and carry on riding.
If your livelihood, sponsorships, or timeless online fame and glory depend on how often you post content online, be smart about it. Just like for personal use, block out time for posting, and stick to your own restrictions. Schedule blog, social, and video posts in advance so you have time for real experiences. Engage online only as much as truly necessary. Reply to emails and messages when you decide to, not when they come in. The world isn’t going to fall apart if you don’t reply or comment instantly: social media dependency is real, but doing some digital detox and finding a new perspective can be liberating.
Here’s another idea: posting about your travels daily might feel essential, but what if you took a completely different approach and instead of constant updates did a live presentation or simply a story evening with friends when you get back? Instant Facebook posts are easy to digest, sure, but they’re equally easy to forget, whereas a gathering of friends or like-minded ADV souls where you talk about traveling and adventuring will have a lot more impact. We may be living online a lot, but the real thing is still the real thing.
Some may assume this is a millennial problem; I assure you, I’ve seen people in their fifties and sixties scrolling their Insta feeds and comparing follower counts while on a motorcycle tour in South America. Younger people may be somewhat more susceptible to the lures of social media as they have grown up with it or were introduced to it at a young age, but smartphone dependency isn’t exclusive to millennials.
Still, this isn’t a rant about the evils of the internet – merely a reminder that it’s up to us to decide how and when we use it. Social media is meant to be addictive. But isn’t ADV supposed to be one of the remedies?