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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?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 14, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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Comments

I have my regular blog posts syndicated to Facebook as notes, so I can update my blog and it will post without me having to log in.

That said, I will still go on FB once or twice during a week off to check in - it's replacing email for some friends.

Posted by: Hemisphire | September 14, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back

Posted by: tbva | September 14, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

So, are you able to only let your *real* friends see those Facebook or Twitter "postcards"? I would be a little concerned about just anyone being able to see that I am on vacation on the other side of the country, leaving my house empty.

Posted by: Ghak | September 14, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I used the Postino iPhone app on my summer trip to Greece to send real postcards to family. It was pretty cool - I uploaded a picture from my phone, typed out a message, and even electronically signed the card and the recipients received an actual personalized postcard in the mail.

Posted by: ShawnDC | September 14, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

This summer, we had our first kid-free vacation in almost 10 years, spending 11 days in the Canadian Rockies. We had a laptop so we could look a the pictures we took (another saga... NEVER buy a new camera right before you go on a trip!). The laptop's WiFi card died on the first day, and cell phone coverage was spotty at best. Neither of us missed either. It was absolutely wonderful! What I did miss was the daily, printed, newspaper, but only at the beginning and end of the trip. As for postcards. I love getting them, and I know that friends, family and colleagues do, too. It's a shame my kids haven't developed an interest in them. I was flabbergasted last summer when my then 16-year old responded with "I didn't know where to get stamps" when I asked her why she never sent us a postcard or letter when she was overseas. A sign of the times? Time for the USPS to hype the joy of postcards!

Posted by: wd3q | September 15, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Continue to stay off the grid when on vacation--it's the only way to completely relax and detatch from your normal routine and daily stresses.

Posted by: searchgirl40 | September 15, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

I'm an old guy/early adopter. On Net since MilNet. On Web since 1993. Purpose of vacation is to vacate. Agree w/you on post card analogy. but consider this. 2 years ago we did a tune-out, Gave contact numbers to our daughter, then didn't read news, turn on tv, use cell phone, or computer for 1 week. The world was still there when we reconected.

Posted by: roy5 | September 18, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

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