Traveller's dilemma: To post or not to post on Facebook?

A flight attendant travels to London and Paris every month and rarely posts a single photograph on Facebook or Instagram.

A travel agent regularly posts enticing photos from every glamorous spot she goes.

Meanwhile, a man on a 590-day round-the-world trip posts a photo on Instagram every day - but is starting to wonder if he should.

"All of our friends were excited with our plans before leaving, but I have a nagging feeling that some are getting jealous now about six months into our trip," says Neil Shigeoka. "I try not to post too much at all and try to censor what I post, but every day it seems like we are seeing something wonderful and beautiful that I want to share."

To post or not to post?

That is the traveller's dilemma.

A few weeks ago we wrote about the concept of being a Travel Bore - someone who can't stop bragging on social media about all of his or her trips.

A deluge of mail later we have concluded that there are two - or perhaps 10 - sides to this issue.

"If someone can't be happy for you, they're not a true friend," wrote one.


"I am a travel bore because I post pictures from Florida when it's freezing in Michigan? Cry me a river, you babies," said another.

"I don't consider my photos to be bragging," added a woman who sends dozens of photos to 25 friends every trip. "I feel I am offering friends a glimpse of what life is like in other countries."

Asks another: "If you are having such a great time on your trip, how do you even have time to post on Facebook? Shouldn't you be planning your surf lessons, volcano outings and luaus?"

It turns out that many folks would rather see a friend's travel pictures than endless posts on food, babies or sports.

"You could have all types of bores on Facebook - the 'Look at my baby' bores, the 'Photos of my dinner' bores, the 'Training for my 10th triathlon' bores, and the list goes on and on," says Shari Kalt, luxury travel adviser at Bee Kalt Travel in Royal Oak, Mich. "People want to share their interests … and I don't think there is anything wrong with that." She even surveyed her Facebook friends, "and I received an overwhelming positive response to wanting to see my (as) well as others' travel photos."

Travel-themed posts actually are one of the least objectionable social media subjects amid a lot of "crass, self-serving junk," says reader Ami Woods.

But others said that the more fortunate you are to travel a lot to exciting places, the more discreet you should be in what you post.

"In one month I may travel to Paris, London and Amsterdam and make no mention of it on Facebook," says a Delta flight attendant named Lisa. "I went to Rome four times last summer but posted just one picture collage. I do love my job but downplay my travel experiences significantly so I am not that person, the travel bore."

Researchers who study social media have looked at whether, in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, "comparison is the thief of joy."

It turns out that it is.

Mai-Ly Steers of the University of Houston and fellow researchers found that viewing of others' Facebook "highlight reels" lead to a distorted social comparison and depression among those who frequently compared their lives with those of others.

A 2015 study at the University of British Columbia found that the posting of travel photos "is a leading contributor to Facebook envy." Seeing photos of other people's fantastic trips makes Facebook users so anxious and envious that it leads to a "vicious cycle of jealousy and self-importance" that causes users to post whatever they can to convince the world that their own lives are just as exciting.

University of Michigan researchers found that directly talking to others online did not predict a decline in well-being, but looking at Facebook posts did.

So why spend time looking at pictures of another person's vacation if it makes you feel irritated, envious or sad?

"Most people are unaware of the impact it is having on them," says Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and director of the Emotions and Self Control Lab, which studies how worry and emotions impact daily life. "Facebook users tend to curate the way they appear on the network and post fun events and times that everyone is happy. When people passively view other people's walls it can increase feelings of envy and jealousy."

His advice for travellers? Reduce the amount of time spent passively scrolling through other people's social media travel pictures and posts. Instead, use text-messaging, email or personal contact to directly communicate and exchange photos and information with friends and family who have expressed interest in your trip.

Of course, some say that social media cannot be blamed if sensitive viewers are bummed out by seeing photos of someone else's awesome vacations.

"It's all in how you see travel pictures," says Lois Patterson of Canton, Michigan. "You can see the fun and beauty in the picture or just the 'green'."

Adds reader Jeff Blaszczak, "the whole point of Facebook is to see the good in my friends' and families' lives," he says.

"I'd much rather scroll through an album of my friends' latest safari in Botswana than having someone (complain) about (President Barack) Obama or (Michigan) Governor (Rick) Snyder."