Why I Didn’t Post This Photo (or Any Photos) From My Vacation0August 26th, 2014
Earlier this summer I wrote a feature for the August issue of Redbook on how not to sabotage your vacation. One of the main saboteurs, of course, is staying too connected to our devices. In the piece I covered how to avoid getting sucked into work emails and tricks for honoring your out-of-office status but also the importance of taking in the scenery not just tweeting photos of it. One of the experts I spoke with—Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of The Willpower Instinct—felt strongly about not having a camera in hand the whole trip. “Part of the joy of a vacation will be savoring it later on so taking pictures is OK but limit it,” she said. “People mis-experience things by trying to document them.”
And here’s her kicker: If you’re truly looking to disconnect, don’t post photos publicly right away. “Give yourself an embargo on your photos and share them when you get home,” she said. “Then it’s part of the savoring experience instead of interfering with the direct experience.” She added that you don’t want to be scrolling through your phone at night to see if people liked your sunset selfie. “That’s a pretty toxic process,” she said. Especially if how many likes you got—or didn’t get—will affect your mood.
Don’t get me wrong, I like being connected. I like social media. I am not a facebook hater. If you’re reading this you likely follow me so you know I am an avid oversharer. I post vacation photos and I enjoy looking at friends’ vacation photos. But since I’d done all this research and wrote a story about it I figured I should actually take the advice I was spewing. So last week while I was on vacation with my family I didn’t share anything on social media. The place we stayed—out on the North Fork of Long Island—had wonky wifi and no cell service so that encouraged me, too. And you know what? It was pretty freeing to leave my phone in the room most days and to never say to my husband “Do you like this photo? Should I post it?”
It’s hard to resist hitting share, I get it. Especially when we sit in our offices day in and day out seeing shots of our friends with their toes in the water and their asses in the sand. We scroll through the requisite “feeties” (see mine above, which I took for the sole purpose of this post) and drool at the food-and-umbrella drink shots. When we’re finally in our own heavenly locale, we want our moment in the sun. Of course that competitive, braggy mindset is not why you should be posting things on facebook in the first place. McGonigal mentioned research showing that if you engage in social media with that intention it actually makes people like you less (there’s a beach in France that has banned selfies for that reason).
I am certainly not accusing any of my friends (or myself) of this type of motivation. And I know there are plenty of people who post quickly and never think twice again, typos be damned. That said, I do have some overthinking tendencies when it comes to what I post and the point of the vacation was to think less so this little experiment was perfect for me. Does it mean I’ll never upload another shot from vacation again? Heck no. Does it mean I don’t want to see your ass-in-the-sand photos? Definitely not! Keep ‘em coming! It makes me happy–not a hater–to see beautiful locales pop up in my newsfeed. But it was a pretty cool experience for me to be off the social media grid for a while.
I didn’t post and I didn’t look at anyone else’s posts for six days straight which allowed me to be completely present with my family. This was especially helpful since having three kids on vacation requires a lot of presence (and patience). I’ll be the first to admit that I’m sometimes distracted by my device and the second I look down at my phone, all hell breaks loose. Or all three swarm around me like gnats. But as long as I’m engaged with them or looking in their general direction, my kids tend to be cool. Cooler than they would be if I were examining my bathing suit photos for cellulite or scrolling through ALS bucket challenge videos. At the very least, this taught me to be more mindful of my technology use and for that I’m grateful. And now, stay tuned for a ton of vacation photos that will feel really old since they were taken last week….