Once upon a time, we used to invite our friends and family members over so we could torture them with hundreds of slides or photos from our most recent vacation.
“Here’s one of me feeding a parrot!”
Now, in an era where social media is an established part of our culture, we’re still subjecting our friends to our vacation photos and memories, only now we tend to do it online and in real time. You can hide, but you’ll never totally escape your friends’ vacations.
Most of us have at least one friend who just can’t help but over-post on social media sites, and the habit tends to go into overdrive when the offending party is on vacation. If people knew how to take photos, this trend would only be mildly annoying. But most people are more likely to post 18 photos of the back of some guy’s head than something that might end up in National Geographic.
So why do people spend their precious holidays posting and tweeting? What are the consequences of over-posting and how do we avoid serial over-posters without damaging our relationship with that person?
“People are really excited about their vacations but for the rest of the world, it’s just not that interesting,” said Dr. Marla Vannucci, associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology. “It’s like the idea that you have to sit through someone else’s vacation. Every meal, every step and you’re not really experiencing it with them.”
Jeremy Birnholtz, an assistant professor at Northwestern University who does research on human-computer interaction issues, says that before you go on an un-friending binge, consider the fact that most over-posters aren’t intentionally trying to annoy us.
“Posting photos of yourself on vacation is like impression management,” he said. “People paint a particular picture of themselves to get the reaction they want.”
Dr. Vannucci said that she has one Facebook friend who feels inadequate and over-posts vacation photos to feel better about himself.
“People who have that narcissistic motivation, they want to provoke envy,” she said. “They want people to wish they were with them.”
Facebook is the vacation gloating venue of choice for Baby Boomers and Generation Xers while Millennials tend to prefer Instagram. Other sites like Foursquare and Pinterest also have their devotees. Birnholtz believes that happy travelers tend to use Twitter less, but says that if you unfollow an over-poster there, the user is less likely to notice than if you unfriend someone on Facebook. He prefers to use the “hide all content” button found on the drop down arrow next to content in the Facebook news feed, rather than unfriending people.
“I use the hide content option for people who consistently want to show me everything they eat,” he said. “Most of my friends aren’t on vacation that often, so it would be hard to hide a person’s content if I only have to endure their annoying vacation photos once or twice per year.”
Birnholtz says that people who post about their vacations on social media also risk getting robbed.
“Whenever I send a tweet that indicates that I’m away from home, my parents tell me they’re going to forward it to Please Rob Me,” he said, referring to a site that attempts to raise awareness regarding over-sharing travel plans on social media.
Aside from the crime risk, Birnholtz thinks that everyone should think twice before they post a beach photo or 50 on their next vacation.
“People will scroll through years worth or your vacation photos,” he said. “You post a beach shot so friends can see where you are in the moment, but those photos serve different purposes and many different audiences will see them for a very long time.”
Here are five sure-fire ways to annoy your social media friends while traveling:
1. Weather Gloating
Those of us who live in colder climes are accustomed to getting obnoxious weather updates from friends on vacation in tropical destinations. “It’s 82 degrees here in The Bahamas, what’s the weather like in Chicago?” Don’t forget that pretty soon, you’ll be back in Chicago and someone else will be on vacation.
2. Vacation Photo Blitzkreig
We like to believe that each of the 900 photos we took on a trip are equally compelling, but please, pick one or two good ones and leave the rest on your phone or hard drive. No one, not even your dearest friends want to see 87 posts detailing every step you took on vacation.
3. Your Meal Tasted Better Than It Looks on Facebook
Food photography is an art and unless you know what you’re doing, chances are your meal will look like nothing more than slop on a plate.
4. Selfies Gone Wild
Your friends and family members already know what you look like. There is no need for your mug to be in every photo. Show us the Grand Canyon, not an extreme close-up of your nostrils.
5. The Kids Are Alright Once or Twice, Not 96 Times
Like every parent, I’ve been guilty of over-posting photos of my children. But when we go on a trip, this instinct goes into overdrive. No matter how cute your kids are, only their grandparents can tolerate dozens of similar photos of them frolicking on a beach.