Social Media + Travel

I am thankful everyday to be studying abroad in the age of social media.  My reliance on Google maps, Yelp, and travel planning apps is undeniable; I am not sure how I would navigate Europe without these tools in the palm of my hand.  In a connected world crowdsourcing- the practice of obtaining information by enlisting the services of a large number of people- is an essential tool in knowing where to go and what to do while you travel, using the knowledge of others who have visited places you have never been before.  I find insider knowledge through a wealth of tools including:

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The most mainstream app I use is Airbnb.  Stranger to few now, the apps allows you to book a room or entire home of another Airbnb user.  You can search by location, price, time-table, number of guests, rating, and more.  The tool I find most valuable on Airbnb is user reviews, detailing the cleanliness of the space, location in the city , and reliability of the owner by people who have already rented the home.  This is often the deciding factor in my decision to stay in a particular place.  Additionally, My Guide Book will help you find the most popular destinations to visit in the cities you travel to.

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Another favorite app of mine is Travel and Leisure magazine’s Travel Guide.  It gives an overview of the city you plan to visit including best time to visit, transportation, weather, languages spoken, currency used, and types of electrical outlets used.  Hotel, bar, restaurant, and shopping recommendations are also available through the app.  The interface is extremely easy to use and being that it is created by Travel + Leisure, the photography and art  used is superb.  This is great to skim for last minute recommendations as you pack.

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Trip Advisor is a tried and true classic.  A great example of crowdsourcing, all recommendations are based off user reviews.  Because Trip Advisor is one of the older players in the game, it has a catalog of locations and reviews unmatched by similar sites.  Trip Advisor is what I go to as my final decision maker; if a hotel or restaurant has a bad rating on this app, it’s over.  Use this app before you book that hotel that looks a little too nice for the price ( I learned this the hard way when I booked a hotel in Paris without throughly vetting it through Trip Advisor, and found out later about bed bugs and crabs).

For more travel apps that use crowdsourcing and social media tools, look below:

Trover

CouchSurfing

Lonely Planet

Facebook in the Political World

The internet has come a long way since I was born in 1996. It was at first a tool used for knowledge and promotion, but it has become so much more than that. In 2007, at 11 years old, I opened a Facebook account- it was my first social networking site. The way Facebook worked then was Twitter-esque, whenever you had a spare moment you would answer the question, “What are you doing right now?” Usually you were doing nothing of importance, but when constantly prompted, you’d either write a lengthly anecdote about your day or ask a rhetorical question. You were constantly adding new friends as more and more people joined the site each day.

Today, Facebook has become a minefield of political articles and personal posts about political opinions, far different from its intended use back when it was just a message board for Harvard students in the mid-2000’s.  It is almost impossible to enter the sight without seeing a post about Donald Trump’s newest executive order or the latest on international terrorism; the site is almost taken over by news articles.  “Fake news,” a term everywhere these days, referring specifically to how Facebook’s lack of vetting their news sources may have led to the election of Donald Trump in America, became a huge international topic in November of 2016, and continues to be today.  Thanks to the algorithm used by Facebook, people who leaned in a particular political direction saw posts that most fit their beliefs, while articles that challenged their beliefs were most of the time not presented.  This led conservatives (and democrats) to read extremely right-wing (or left-wing) articles usually filled with misinformation, trying to grab readers attention and get them to vote in a particular direction.

Donald Trump made use of this new tool, a Facebook centered on politics, as well as Twitter, to his advantage.  His constant stream of tweets late into the night entertained the public and got his name out into the media more than it would have without a social media presence.  And Mr. Trump continues to tweet reckless and hasty messages even as he holds the presidency in the United States.  Additionally, Facebook launched Donald Trump onto a platform that allowed it’s almost 2 billion users to read about him day after day, normalizing his outrageous comments to the press and making desensitizing the public to how crazy his statements actually were.

Social media platforms are powerful tools, and when used for good can help positive messages spread like wildfire, a la the ALS ice bucket challenge.  But when false news spreads in the same way, dangerous things may happen, like the presidency of a man like we have never seen in the United States of America.

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor