What I Uploaded for My Summer Vacation
Summer isn't over yet, but the summer-vacation season is. I know this because I'm no longer getting updates about your travels when I log into Facebook and Twitter.
This isn't the first year that I've been able to follow friends' vacations online; tech-enthusiast types have been uploading pictures and composing blog posts on the road for some time now. But as social networks have become increasingly popular and begun offering mobile-Web interfaces and applications that make it easy to share your exploits from a smartphone, I've seen more non-techie friends posting about their travels.
I'm not quite sure what to think about that.
On one hand, a well-written Facebook post (I assure you they exist!) can effectively take the place of a postcard: It arrives instantly, it can include the sender's own photos or video clips, it can be shared with many people at once, and there's no need to find a stamp and a mailbox. There's also the chance that a timely status update will help you connect with a pal who happens to be traveling in the same area or can recommend a good restaurant.
On the receiving end, I've enjoyed seeing where friends have roamed this summer -- even if reading their recaps has occasionally induced pangs of jealousy.
On the other hand, once you log into Facebook or Twitter, it's hard not to keep reading and posting on those sites -- and then you haven't really left your usual routine, have you? For that reason, I've made a point of staying off those sites when I'm on vacation. I don't check e-mail either; about the only reason I'll go online on my phone is to check the weather or baseball scores.
And let's not forget that postcards work with people who aren't on any of these networking sites, or who aren't on the Internet at all.
On this summer's vacation, I had an extra incentive to stay off the Web: For much of the time, I couldn't connect to it anyway. The eastern half of Glacier National Park doesn't appear to be covered by anybody's wireless signal; with no telephone or TV in our room, the telecom infrastructure might as well have not changed since the Great Northern Railway's arrival in the area at the end of the 19th century.
But my next vacation could well be in an area with a full range of Internet-access options. My inclination is to stick to my practice of scribbling out brief "[place name here] is great ... wish you were here ... talk soon ..." messages on postcards, but if you want to suggest that I get with the times, I'll hear you out. What would you do in these situations?
September 14, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories: Digital culture
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