How Not to Let Instagram Take over Your Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, Russell and I went to Europe. It was sort of a last-minute trip based on great off-season pricing and the fact that I’d never been. Before we left, everyone told me to Instagram … and I kind of resented it. I’d had a bad couple of months, and I wanted to disconnect, not report back on everything I was doing. I wanted to be present and actually experience as much as I could, and putting so much effort into capturing a moment often results in not actually experiencing the moment.

Russell doesn’t seem to have this problem. When he sees something that he wants to share, he just shares it. He doesn’t wrestle with writing the right caption or getting the right exposure — he just swipes and takes the story without fanfare or gnashing of teeth. I usually don’t even notice that he’s doing it.

That’s not how I function. I second-guess what I’m doing so much that it can take me a couple minutes (or more) to get happy with a post, and when I’m working on that, I’m not thinking about what’s actually going on around me. This can be really irritating for the people I’m traveling with (or sharing dinner or coffee with), and honestly, it’s irritating for me, too — I want to experience life, not just document it.

Obviously, I don’t HAVE to Instagram (or Facebook or Tweet). One way to enjoy your life is just to live it and not capture it on social media. And if that’s your choice, I think it’s a great one. But I really enjoy having a record of the trip that I can revisit later. When I was a kid, we kept travel journals and scrapbooks on our vacations, and I love looking back at them — they trigger memories that would’ve otherwise been forgotten. Social media fills that space for me now, and it’s something I really appreciate about it. Instagram and Facebook are also a way to let our families into our lives — I know Russell’s and my families were really happy we were able to take this trip, and it was cool to be able to share things with them that we definitely would have forgotten if we waited until we got home.

I have a little personal hack that helps me be in the moment AND capture it on social media — I take the photos and videos with my phone (or camera) instead of with the app and wait to post them later (POSTpone them, if you will, haha). In Europe, I put my phone on airplane mode most of the time so I couldn’t post or see comments. I did that because we wanted to save money on international cell phone data, but it ended up being a great way to disconnect. I still posted on social media, but I did it all at night when I was connected to wifi.

I’d be lying if I said I was totally in the moment — I still took a lot of pictures, and I still made videos that I intended on putting on Instagram later. But I saved myself from stumbling into the street and getting hit by a bus because I was searching for the right GIF and from missing those small moments that get eaten up when you’re trying to come up with the right caption. I also like to think that it showed Russell that talking to him is more important than responding to a stranger’s comment about my Eiffel Tower photo, and that’s something I always want to remember — that people are more important than posts, and I don’t want anyone who’s with me to feel like they mean less than a bunch of followers on social media. Sometimes, I fail at that. But I’m trying hard to get it right.

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