COVID-19 has forever changed the way we travel.
Travel was a social currency before the coronavirus. We asked friends and new people we met (remember meeting new people?) where they were and what was on their bucket list. Travel shaming back then applied to judging someone for not having traveled enough. People were proud to share their travel stories, like a badge of honor.
In today’s day and age, whether or not to travel seems more like an ethical choice than just a personal one as it’s always been. Putting aside the ethical question of whether or not (and how) we can travel, how we choose to share our lives on social media is another matter altogether.
The pandemic has ushered in a new era of shaming. There is mask shaming when someone is criticized for wearing or not wearing a mask; social distance shaming when people are criticized for being too close; even virus shaming when someone is criticized for getting coronavirus.
And then there’s travel shaming.
What is travel shaming?
Once the world closed down and flights got cancelled, airports and borders closed, the social status of travel changed. Travelers began to face the outrage of people who felt traveling during the pandemic was putting others at risk.
Born from the question of whether or not travel is safe at this point in time because of the possible danger, travel shaming shows up as public shaming in social media. The basis of travel shaming is that when we choose to take a trip, we put not only ourselves at risk of spreading coronavirus, but also those we encounter during the travel, those in our destination and those who we interact with upon our return.
This public shaming designed to deter people from traveling might do exactly that or not, or maybe it’ll exactly prevent people from sharing it on Instagram.
Unlike other coronavirus types of shaming, travel shaming doesn’t seem to lead to people being “canceled” (a situation when the people withdraw their support for a public figure). It slips gently into direct messages or appears passively on social media pages.
More travel, less posting
Data suggests that even with rising cases of infections and the phenomenon of travel shaming, an increasing number of people are choosing to travel. The global numbers have been increasing drastically since July.
But a lesser number of them are posting their travel pictures online. There could be a number of reasons for this including a fear of backlash or travel shaming. They could also just be considerate of those who are stuck at home or infected and suffering.
It is counterproductive
Few researchers who have done a basic study of the phenomenon say that travel shaming mostly receives the opposite effect of what is actually desired. That is, when you shame someone with the intent to discourage them from travelling they tend to get angry and defensive and more stubborn to travel.
Is it right?
It is important to note, from the viewpoint of those who are “shamed” for travelling, that not everyone who wishes to travel does this without the appropriate precautions. Most (if not all) travelers tend to wear a mask, wash their hands, maintain their social distance and sanitize surfaces before touching them. After six months of almost endless isolation, you can’t blame people for wanting to travel.
Nobody wants to be shamed when they go out, particularly when they decide to take the right precautions and continue with outdoor activity in uncrowded destinations. However, the pandemic is still far from under control and millions of people around the world have suffered and it might seem insensitive or selfish to disregard this and fly.
What can I do?
There are certain things we know for certain. If we don’t move and leave our houses, we’re not going to risk contracting or transmitting the virus to someone else to a great extend. According to health organizations, travel is going to increase your chances of having and spreading COVID-19. We also know that if we wear a mask, wash our hands and practice social isolation, we will prevent the virus from spreading.
When it comes to whether you can take a trip in the current situation or not, there is no single answer. Also, maybe we should, instead of “travel shaming” those who want to travel, suggest them to take health and safety precautions to reduce the risks as far as possible and follow the same if you wish to travel.
We live in a difficult time and things are uncertain. The best we can do is to allow people to travel safely if they are willing to travel and resist the protective and unpleasant desire to shame people.
Though there are no right answers whether or not to travel, when in doubt, planning your future journey and looking forward to better times is highly recommended!