the guests departed
March 16, 2011, 6:57 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , , ,

Two possible historical outcomes:  social media is a paradigm event that has altered our lives significantly and forever; or social media is a blip on the timeline of media development since the granddaddy printing press event.  Either way, people will write tomes and many more will spill hours away chatting and posting and liking.

For the travel set, posting photos is a favorite activity.  I do it.  We used to shoot film, and develop glossies, and put them in albums on sticky card pages with filmy plastic cover sheets.  And pull them out at family gatherings or during early-on dates with new girlfriends, leaning over each other with new found fascination for far away places.

Before that, our dad’s kept slide carousel projectors in closets.  We’d plug them in on holidays and set up the the portable screen with the white scratchy surface, and mom made popcorn.  People liked it, in a way, but also there would be moans and cringing.

With social media it’s different, somehow.  It’s instantaneous and slick for starters.  Which can make a beautiful electronic conversation:  have a nice time!  welcome home!  love this shot : )  Or, it can turn into an addicting competitive game:  you safaried in Zimbabwe?  Well I swam in October in the Tyrrhenian sea!  And so on.

Which makes you wonder why we travel.  Some possibilities are, conquest of what’s out there, getting lots done during this lifetime (the bucket list), getting away from here, meeting someone new, seeing another culture and way of life.  In shorter form, that could be:  conquest, competition, acquisition, escape, anthropology.  A mostly bleak list.  Like any media, the hot social variety can act as a benign host for the ideas and images we collect while we are gone, or can nurture nascent, and often bad, habits.

Anyway, the question of our motivations to travel is still, as it should be, open.  For Huxley, in his observations below, the sight of tourists wringing ‘experience’ from a long dull evening in Montmartre is the saddest thing he’s ever seen.  These tourists are grim, determined, bored, tired.  The band droning.  No party here.

‘Saddest’ isn’t hyperbole.  People – perhaps tourists especially – crave life; for themselves and to share with friends. Human craving is hard to watch; for Huxley there is nothing sadder than witnessing it as he did that night.  And media that brokers in human need will go viral – in the world and in the heart.

Huxley’s night in Montmartre —

The saddest sight I ever saw was in a Montmartre boite at about 5 o’clock of an autumn morning. At a table in the corner of a hall sat three young American girls, quite unattended, adverturously seeing life for themselves. In front of them, on the table, stood the regulation bottle of champagne; but for preference – perhaps on principle – they were sipping lemonade. The jazz band played on monotonously; the tired drummer nodded on his drums; the saxaphonist yawned into his saxaphone. In couples, in staggering groups, the guests departed. But grimly, indominably, in spite of their fatigue, in spite of the boredom which so clearly expressed itself on their charming and ingenous faces, the three young girls sat on. They were still there when I left at sunrise. What stories I reflected, they would tell when they got home again! And how envious they would make their untravelled friends. “Paris is just wonderful…”

-Aldous Huxley, quoted on tomorrow museum


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