On a much-needed getaway with your girlfriend or spouse, you upload some vacationy photos to Facebook. And, well, since the cat is already out of the location bag, you also "check in" at your hotel and see who's around for drinks tonight. This is going to be awesome!
Three hours later, look, it's your cousin Abigail who always wants to talk about 9/11 being an inside job. You forgot she lived here, didn't you? And there's your ex who still has a crush on you. Your significant other will love that she drove 90 minutes just to see you again. And isn't that the guy you met once at a networking event who emails you for a job every week?
Even worse, check your inbox. A dozen other semi-strangers couldn't make drinks but expect you to drive to their living rooms, meet their spoiled children and talk for three hours about the good times you barely had together.
Has Facebook ruined our vacations? It seems like it has. Between the potential burglars and "friends" who feel entitled to our time, we are no longer free to use it to declare being anywhere that isn't our hometown.
Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of psychology at UMass Amherst, says this is the price we pay for allowing Facebook to help us maintain many important relationships using only a tiny fraction of the energy required to do so in real life.
"It allows us to stay connected with people who at one point were important to us," she says. "And we benefit from those relationships. So I think it’s a good thing on the whole, but it becomes an issue on vacation.”
Next month, Whitbourne will experience this issue herself when she travels to Fort Lauderdale: "There's somebody I would like to see there and there's someone I wasn't really planning on seeing, so now I have to think twice before I post any pretty sunset pictures because the other person will say, 'Oh, she's in Fort Lauderdale.'"
Facebook has transformed us into a nation of vacation fugitives. If we dare to update, it must be a locations-disabled deflection of our actual plans. And when we visit with friends we wanted to see, we live in fear of the Facebook photo "tag." Because the whole world is now on Facebook, any phone that comes out is a potential whistleblowing device. Even if we require tags to be pre-approved, the photo can still be seen by our friends on the timelines of mutual friends.
Some relaxing vacation, huh?
I'm sorry, nice guy I met through a friend of a friend in 2003. I'm happy you like so many of my status updates, but just because I happen to be staying for a short time near your house does not make you entitled to an entire night of my vacation. In fact, there are literally 100 people I should be making dinner plans with before you.
This is a conversation many of us have, but only in our heads and never out loud with the actual guy. We feel guilty for rejecting people—which is why we confirmed him as a friend in the first place.
"We should learn some guilt management 101," Whitbourne says. "The whole point of vacations is to get away from entanglements and have fun. So, too bad that you can't have time for everybody, but it's your vacation. If you didn't make plans to be with these people, then they are not that important to you. So if you lose their Facebook friendship, is it a great loss?”
My Facebook friend, Jess Mahoney, says she tackles all Facebook vacation drama by providing a date, time and a place to meet, leaving no room for negotiations. "If they can't make it, that is on them and I tried,” she writes. "Then the rest of my vacation can be spent doing the fun stuff and not feeling crappy because I missed Aunt Suzie and her house that smells of cat pee."
By the way, I have never met Jess Mahoney and have no idea who she is.