While I was in Bristol this past summer, my friends from Syberia Top (the guys I used to hike with in Russia) called me up and asked if I wanted to join them for a two week “gig” hiking in Turkey. They were planning on taking a group on a 100km trek along the Lycian Way in the south of Turkey and then doing a “photo tour” in Cappadocia. They said they needed my help translating between Russian and English and helping out with things like cooking, taking photos, and making sure that nobody gets lost :). Since this trip was planned for September 28th- October 11th (just two days after I could legally re-enter Spain), and Syberia Top offered to pay for everything, including my flights from the UK to Turkey and Turkey to Spain, I couldn’t really refuse this trip :). Since I have so few savings left, I basically need to take any job I get offered.
So on September 28th I got off the big jet plane in Antalya, Turkey, and basically got straight to hiking with this group of about 15 Russian people.
We weaved up and down the mountains of the southern Turkish coast, walked through white rocky canyons and glanced out past the steep, tree-lined cliffs along the Lycian Way.
The Lycian Way is a nice trek that goes into the mountains and along the coast, passing by a few interesting sights such as a gigantic 600 year-old plane tree, Yanartaş (a fascinating rocky slope with dozens of constantly burning natural fires), and ancient ruins. The entire trek is about 540km long, so we only did a small portion of it.
The Lycian Way also passes through vineyards, pomegranate and apple gardens, small Turkish villages, and what seemed like a few people’s backyards :).
This was nice because it allowed us to come in contact with some very friendly Turkish villagers and take a rest at their little cafes and fresh juice shacks. So after every few hours or so of hiking, we were rewarded with fresh pomegranate juice, figs, apples, or grapes. This was convenient (or so I thought) not only because of the fresh fruit, but also because a lot of these shacks and cafes happened to have free WiFi.
I was used to taking people hiking in Siberia, where we never had phone service, let alone WiFi in the wilderness, but along the Lycian Way, we rarely spent a day without an internet connection. As a result, I got to witness the powerful effect that the internet (or more specifically, Instagram) had on “vacationers”.
You see, back in Siberia, I noticed that most people we took hiking were a bit obsessed with having photos taken of themselves, but I wasn’t too concerned about this obsession because I didn’t feel like it took over our entire hiking experience. We’d hike to a beautiful spot, enjoy the view, take a bunch of photos, hike some more, etc. We had time to enjoy the view and the present moment even while dedicating some time to photos. But in Turkey, I noticed an entirely new dimension to this photo obsession.
People were no longer just taking photos of pretty sights or special moments, now, because of Instagram “stories”, they felt the need to record absolutely everything they did! And when I say everything, I really mean everything.
Walk down the street– photo! Get on a bus– video! Sit on the bus– photo! Get off the bus– another short clip! Eat food- photo! Roast a marshmallow– photo! Eat it- video! Swing on a swing– photo! Do some yoga– photo! It’s like people no longer do stuff just to do stuff, they do stuff only for a photo.
Then as soon as we hit the wifi zone, most people were face deep in their phones uploading these posts and “stories”, then checking “likes” and replying to people’s comments.
I noticed that it wasn’t only our group that was doing this- it was almost everybody I came in contact with!
We climbed to the top of a 2,500 meter mountain to a sea of puffy drifting clouds, the view was fantastic! But on top of this mountain there was a gondola that brought up rich tourists and a cement building with WiFi. There, I noticed all kinds of random people frantically uploading photos of themselves onto Instagram and then commenting on these posts.
I noticed people filming absolutely everything, almost everywhere we went, and anytime we reached a particularly beautiful spot, everybody kind of photo-freaked. Their immediate reaction was to pose and get as many photos of themselves as possible. That seemed to be the goal.
I know what you’re thinking… “this is not new or surprising…” :D but I think it’s important to analyze what’s happening here…
We live on an incredible planet, filled with breathtaking mountains, clouds, oceans and canyons. Our time here on Earth is precious, we should enjoy as much of it as possible. Many of us have the opportunity to explore this planet, to see the wonders of plane trees, fires, sunsets and big ancient ruins. To gaze out past the cliffs, to smell lush forested mountains and to simply enjoy the moments of life. But if you’re so busy recording and uploading every single thing you do, to broadcast the best moments of your life to a public audience- are you really fully engaged in these moments? Are you even living these moments or are you just taking pictures?
After the Lycian Way, we took an overnight bus to Cappadocia, a fascinating region in the middle of Turkey. Cappadocia stands on a high plateau below several volcanic peaks. The plateau is covered in unique rock features that were formed from volcanic ash that coated the region millions of years ago. With time, this ash formed into soft, malleable rock called “tuff,” which eventually was eroded down by wind and water, leaving harder rock in the form of domes, pillars and penises up to six stories high.
Cappadocia’s famous mushroom shaped caps are a result of a tougher layer of basalt that formed over the tuff. Since basalt erodes slower than tuff, unique shapes were formed through weathering.
During the Roman period, prosecuted Christians fled to Cappadocia and soon realized that these unique domes and pillars were very malleable. They built homes, churches, stables and storehouses by carving into the rock, so some of these giant penises also have doors and windows :D Underground cities were also carved out and used as hide-outs for up to 20,000 people.
Cappadocia has a rich history and extremely unique landscape, but most of the tourists in Cappadocia seemed to be A LOT more interested in having photos taken of themselves than they were in the place itself.
This makes me wonder what these people are “traveling” for. Are they interested in discovering a new place, learning something new or simply enjoying a special moment in a beautiful spot? Or are they more interested in recording themselves and impressing others with their photos?
I mean, if you’re really having the time of your life and you’re so excited about the place you’re in and the present moment, then why would you bother proving that to other people? Why waste this precious time?
Maybe because most people in today’s society are constantly seeking for approval and appraisal from others. Being “liked” may be a lot more important than learning or discovering something new. This is created by the competitive environment we’re brought up in- people are taught to want to be better, hotter, and more bad-ass than the rest, and companies like Instagram (Facebook) take advantage of this and push people to compete for attention. Why? Because the more attention you get on Instagram, the more data they can collect. More likes, more clicks, more swipes – more data. More data means more money for Facebook.
Individual people seek for more and more attention on social media because attention can be rewarded and translated into “success”. 500,000 people like your page?! That’s “successful” because now you can make money. Companies will come to you to sell stuff through you, and the more attention you get, the more money you can potentially earn.
Keep in mind that these are all trades- you trade your time (the precious moments of your life) for post “likes” and attention. You trade your data (from posts, “likes”, etc.) to use the platform. Your data is traded for money (by the platform). If you get enough attention, you can also trade it for money or goods. But don’t forget that very first trade- your life. How much is it really worth?