We’re in the midst of summer travel season and it seems like everyone we know is having an amazing time.
We know this because we witness every moment of our friends’ lives on social media.
But all this sharing is making us envious, competitive, depressed – and it’s ruining our vacations.
This will make a great post!
The sad reality is this is one of the first things to pop in our minds when we travel now.
It’s no longer “that was a great restaurant” or “the kids sure had a great day at the beach.”
Now our minds are clouded with what everyone else will think of our experiences.
It’s become, “Don’t eat that until I get a picture for Instagram,” or “Wait, pretend to build a sandcastle! No, not there! Let’s get the sunset in the background.”
Families have always posed for pictures on vacation.
But back then, the purpose of photos was to preserve our favorite memories for ourselves — not to improve someone else’s perception of us.
Sure, social media keeps us connected. But it also seems to fulfill some human instinct – maybe something along the lines of “survival of the fittest” – to stick it to others.
“See, my life is perfect. You can tell by these amazing vacation photos.”
Hubby and wife arm in arm, the kids peacefully sitting in the sand, hair blowing in the ocean breeze, and everyone wearing matching outfits.
But what is all this posting and posturing doing to our precious family memories?
The answer is probably not anything good.
Family vacations have changed.
Back in my day, family vacation included driving in our Buick station wagon for the better part of the day to visit family.
We’d take a book and a blanket to survive the 10 hour trip. That was it. No tablets or phones or movies projected on the back of the seat.
Each day we’d go to a couple touristy spots, buy a t-shirt, grab some ice cream, and then head back to our family’s house where we’d have to share the bottom bunk with our cousin while the adults stayed up and drank beer.
A couple of days after we got home, my mother would drive us to Ritz Camera where we’d spend twenty minutes filling out envelopes – one per roll of film – and drop them in the little slot.
A couple of weeks after that, we’d drive back and eagerly rip into the package to see all the great stuff we did on our trip.
Most were blurry, off-center, and unflattering. There would be one or two of all of us smiling that might make it into a picture frame on our bookcase.
The rest went into the sticky pages of an ugly-patterned photo album. We’d pull them out to show the grandparents, “Look, here’s the monkey carved out of a coconut that I bought. What ever happened to that?”
Once in a while my friends would show us their family vacation photos and I’d think, “Whoa, Hawaii?!! Your dad must make good money at IBM!”
We didn’t really share family vacation photos with others. If we went somewhere really special, like our one trip to Disney World (no, not one trip each year – one trip during my entire childhood), we might pull out the slide projector, obliging a close family friend to take a look.
Our vacation photos were really just for us – and the bookcase – left to collect dust for years until we pulled them out to prove to our spouse that the kids really do look more like us at their age.
But vacation albums aren’t like that now. Now, it’s all about…
Making them green with envy!
“[Insert friend’s name] added 231 photos to the album: Italy, 2019.” And this will not be the only post of their trip.
There will be daily uploads of every single meal, shop, wardrobe change, videos of the kids running down the beach in their straw hats, the perfect pic of sun-kissed hubby and wife staring lovingly into each other’s eyes.
Now it seems as if we’re taking family vacations to prove something — not to have fun and spend time with each other.
And we all do it – and not just on vacation.
We want to keep up appearances. We want our friends and their friends to think we’re good parents, have a great marriage, make good money, and know how to spend it well.
We want attention! Validation!
It’s no longer enough to go visit that aunt in Ohio and eat at her favorite local diner. I mean, anyone can do that.
No, we want to show our friends that we are just as good as they are. “Look at us in Cancun! Here’s the suite on our luxury cruise!”
And then there are vacations within the vacation. Spa days and separate excursions just for the kids. Duty-free shopping at the local marketplace. “Look, I got my hair braided in a back alley!” Back to the ship for a glass of wine at sunset.
This need to prove ourselves on social media to people who barely know us (and even the ones that do) is breeding a form of destructive envy.
We document and post it all in the hopes that we’re boosting our reputations and keeping up with everyone else’s vacation level.
We want to be like them, but even better, we want them to want to wish they were us.
Hey, look at us! No fighting kids here. No husbands arguing with their wives over buying that $250 dinner.
I mean, we gotta look good! At least as good as Bob and Linda on their trip to Jamaica last year.
And this rat-race is ruining family vacations.
Study Finds reports that almost every user across social media platforms has been envious of someone else’s post at least once.
And almost 60 percent of the study’s participants said they thought a friend had a better life than they did when they viewed their vacation or holiday photos.
I think it’s time we ask ourselves: What is our family vacation supposed to achieve?
Do we really want our kids to remember that special trip because we spent hours posing for photos that would put our 457 followers in their place?
Or do we want them to actually remember building that sandcastle with Mom and Dad at their side?
And why do we need all this attention and validation anyway?
Stop the madness!
In the end, do we really care how great someone else’s vacation was?
The only thing I may be thinking is, “Crap, Amy just had a baby and is wearing a bikini?!! I’m still wearing my stretchy shorts five years later.”
In fact, all those perfect vacation photos make me not want to go on an amazing family getaway like everyone else. It’s too much pressure.
So we’ll probably go visit Aunt Gladys in Ohio. I’ll take a picture of the kids with their milkshakes at the diner and I’ll be comfortable in my stretchy shorts next to Gladys in her muumuu.
Vacations are for creating family memories, not photo ops with the sole purpose of one-upping someone we don’t even know all that well.
And honestly, I’m too tired to spend a week trying to create over-the-top social posts of my perfect family vacation. I’d rather enjoy actually spending time with family.
Right now, I’ve got a trip to Ohio to pack for.
Who’s envious now?
(h/t Proud American Traveler)