Although some people, mostly journalists from the developed world, keep reminding us how alienating social media is and how unhappy it makes us, but it appears that Social Media has had the opposite effect in our part of the world.
These social websites have provided many a people with alternative spaces to get to know each other, discuss matters, and plan things — which was previously difficult, if not impossible. Members of the Punjabi communities living in India and Pakistan come to mind, for instance.
Another area where the social websites have played a vital role is that of local tourism. Many groups have popped up that arrange trips to as close as Nilan Bhotu (just across the Margallah Hills) to as far as K2.
No, they are not your usual tour operators. Most of these groups were originally a circle of travel enthusiasts who used to make private trips every other month until one of them suggested to make it a profitable thing by inviting outsiders to join.
Facebook has helped. An event is created. Travel plan is posted along with some pictures. And a few people are invited. The rest happens by itself because of the social nature of Facebook.
Quite often, all the seats are filled within a week. Every month there are a number of such expeditions being announced on Facebook and the frequency is increasing.
The Joshi festival of the Kalash people, held every year in mid-May, is on the calendar of many such travel groups these days. With a simple Facebook search, I was able to find 5 such groups taking more than 400 people to Chitral for the festival.
Many of those going with these groups will be people who might not have gone otherwise. It’s a win-win.
Sohail Abid has traveled extensively in Punjab and Kashmir on his motorbike. He is currently on an indefinite journey to capture photos, videos, and stories of contemporary Pakistan. The updates are being posted on the website, Also Pakistan.