If I want to know something I pick up my iPhone and look it up. If I have a question I don’t know the answer to I ‘Google’ it. If I’m feeling a little disconnected and want to check out what my friends or family are up to I head to Facebook or Instagram for a quick update. If I want to know what’s happening in the wider world or to check for breaking news, I scan Twitter.
So, what do I do when I arrive in a city where there is no Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter and a VERY slow internet so that even sending or receiving a simple email takes an extraordinarily long time.
I landed in Shanghai for a week knowing that Facebook was unavailable. Not to worry – I don’t post much on it anyway, and I can certainly go a week without seeing updates and photos from friends and family (no offence guys). Twitter I can also live without for a week. I can still get my news from The Age newspaper app each morning which, I was delighted to find, loads very quickly.
Instagram is going to be much harder. I’ve really grown to love Instagram. It’s become my visual diary. I love posting shots of things that appeal to me each day. I try not to overdo it – just one or two. I love receiving street photos from all over the world. They inspire me to take better photos myself, and provide a tiny window to so many different cultures and ways of life. One of the people I follow lives here in Shanghai and regularly posts photos of beautiful Art Deco buildings (which I plan to check out this week) which is why I thought it would be available. Maybe there’s a social media ‘black market’ for locals.
My two favourite travel apps – Trip Advisor and Google Maps – are available … but not quite. In Google Maps I can see the blue dot showing ‘my location’ but can’t search for an address. In Trip Advisor I can look up the ’10 best things to do in Shanghai’ but can’t connect to the maps to find out where they are.
I can access my blog but there is no fancy formatting and I can’t see any comments that people make which is a little frustrating as I really like to read them. I’m not even going to think about posting any photos this week, but I am going to try and upload this piece. Will it work? I suspect luck will play a small part.
Anyway, what this all means is that I’m taking a communist-China-imposed week off from social media. I’ll be sending the odd email to family and close friends to assure them I’m alive and well. At best there’ll be one photo attached as anything more takes far too long, and the internet times out. I’ll also be using an old-fashioned pocket Lonely Planet guidebook which I thankfully remembered to pack. Best of all it includes an equally old-fashioned map – with the letters and numbers down the side. I’ll be getting tips from other travellers that I meet along the way. Best of all I’ll be taking lots of photos and notes to post when I return to the land of high-speed internet and excessive social media.
Oh, and by the way – Shanghai is AMAZING.