Social Media When You Travel
Don’t Be a Gloater! Tell Us a Story!
By Dave Fox
You’re burned out at work or bored at home. For relief, you turn to that magical, procrastinational wonderland: Facebook.
You’re seeking momentary distraction from your daily drudge. Instead, you discover that some evil jerk, who, until two minutes ago was your friend (and I mean your real friend, not just a Facebook “friend”), has posted something horribly insensitive.
As you lament your daily monotony, they have uploaded a photograph of their beach-view balcony in the Maldives.
Or news of their day in Bali: “About to go for my third massage of the day. LOL!”
Or, most heinous of all, a photograph of their lunch: “OMG!!! The Spaghetti Carbonara in Florence is TO DIE FOR!!!!”
“Fine,” you grumble as you gaze out at your landscape of oversized to-do lists. “Then go die for it.”
You didn’t log on to Facebook to read that your friends’ lives are cooler than yours.
* * *
Fast forward a couple of months: Finally, it’s time for your vacation! You’ve just landed in Jamaica, checked into your resort, and sprinted to the beach where you are now sipping a rainbow-hued beverage with a pineapple garnish and a paper umbrella.
“Life is good,” you say to your companion. “Let’s take pictures of our cocktails. Our Instagram followers will be thrilled!”
The Envy Trap
A study last year in Germany reported that society’s collective social media addiction is causing depression in a variety of ways, one of which is that it increases envy. People share their most interesting and unusual moments, not the hours upon hours they spend fulfilling the same mundane tasks we all have to fulfill. This fools us into thinking their lives are more exciting than ours.
When we travel, our lives are packed with interesting and unusual moments. We’re excited about those moments. We want to share them. But we don’t want to irritate or depress our friends.
So should we stop Facebooking, tweeting, pinning, and Instagramming when we’re having big adventures? No! When done right, sharing those moments on social media is great. It’s when we fall into self-indulgent gloating that people start hoping we’ll choke on our Spaghetti Carbonara.
When I teach travel writing, I explain to my students there’s an important difference between writing a personal travel diary and writing travel tales for others to read. It’s fine – and fun – to squeal gratuitously to ourselves in our private pages. When we write for publication, however, we must offer our readers something more substantial than, “Look at me! Look where I am!”
Sharing on social media is similar. If it’s for others to read, we should make it interesting for them.
You’ve just visited Shwedagon Pagoda in Burma? Cool! Tell us on Facebook – but don’t just tell us you went there. Give us an anecdote. Teach us what you learned. Describe how it felt to circle the pagoda amid swirls of pilgrims and neighborhood Buddhists, as prayers crackled from loudspeakers and incense sweetened the air.
A snapshot of a market vendor? Give us a short blurb to go with the photo. Who is she? What’s her life like? How did you feel as you took her picture? Did you make an effort to connect with her before you poked your smartphone in her direction?
And your delicious meal sounds nice and all, but can you offer us a nibble of trivia about the food’s history, how it’s made, or why it’s popular where you are? If you don’t know, ask your waiter. Get inquisitive and you’ll have deeper cultural connections.
(And unless your food was something extraordinary, I’d rather see where you ate than what you ate. Seriously, I don’t care what your pizza looks like.)
That potent, fruity beverage you’re slurping as sea foam tickles your toes? Those of us who are bored at home would appreciate the recipe. We might want to mix our own after work.
We collect stories when we travel that transcend our daily grind. Social media help us share those stories. But there’s a fine line between interesting info and self-absorbed dribble.
So when you post your travels on social media, remember: Nobody like a gloater. Instead, teach us something. Share a story. Bring us into your experience and help us understand it.
Don’t just tell us how cool your life is. Tell us something that will make our lives cooler too.
Discover how to write phenomenal travel tales in Dave’s fun and informative online travel writing workshops!