Social Media and Responsible Tourism

One unexpected consequence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter has been the ability of these internet sites to promote social action. The Arab Spring in Tunisia is probably the first example of a civil uprising and government change coordinated and driven by activists using social media.

In the case of Tunisia it was Facebook that allowed tens of thousands of people to pass on information about demonstration times and places. And then when demonstrations had occurred people were able to post pictures, videos and comments about the historical events.

This gave everyone a voice and also acted as an immediately updated record of the revolution: all those shameful and heroic acts were captured; and later the villains and the heroes could be properly judged.

Whereas setting up your own website or blog can cost money and can require some knowledge of coding or at least dealing with WYSIWYG systems, this is not the case with social media. They are very user-friendly, and they are free.

Moreover, whereas a new blog can often find it hard to connect with an audience, that is not the case with Facebook and Twitter where your stream of posts gets seen by your ‘friends’ and most likely re-posted and disseminated over the internet, reaching potentially thousands of people.

For people living in remote locations with basic infrastructure, or for those caught in a tourist milieu where their chance to interact with other nationals is limited, social media provides an ideal source of local information. People can share experiences and note changes to their environment. They can also discuss how they should deal with any aspects of tourism they feel unhappy about.

Finally, with plenty of translation tools available on the internet there is now no barriers to people of different languages exchanging opinions.

I predict that social media will become more important for organizing responsible tourism and for empowering small isolated local populations who feel swamped by foreigners, development and outside hotel management.

With some of these thoughts in mind I have set up the Koh Phangan Life Facebook page which I hope will be a forum for comments from people concerned with tourism on the party island.

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