What your friends' social media holiday posts really mean

By the time you hit your mid-20s, you know all the real estate tricks. You know the words to look for.

If an apartment is described as "cosy", it's about the size of a shoebox. If the house you're looking at is "character-filled", it's definitely falling apart. Any "leafy outlook" will most definitely be a view of a couple of shrubs in a neighbour's yard, and if the place is a "renovator's dream" it's bordering on unliveable.

These are the tricks that real estate agents play, their ways of putting a positive spin on a dodgy property. As a prospective renter or buyer you get to be able to read between the lines, to decode the language, to look at the photos and piece them together in your mind and figure out that, hang on, isn't that the corner of the bed that you can see in the picture of the kitchen?

Sadly, we're not so savvy with social media, particularly posts by our friends. There's just as much exaggeration being posted on Facebook and Twitter as a real estate ad, just as much coded truth-telling on Insta and SnapChat, but most of us are missing it. We take social media posts – particularly travel-related ones – on face value, indulging in the fantasy, believing in the dream.

Very few people post the bad parts of travel on social media. However, just like real estate ads, there are ways of decoding your friends' posts and figuring out what's really going on.

Over-sharers

To begin with: anyone who posts over and over again, across multiple platforms several times a day from their holiday destination, telling the world about what an amazing time they're having and how their life is being changed before their very eyes, is probably not having a very good time. When all you can think to do on your holiday is share photos to make your friends back home jealous, chances are you could use something genuinely interesting to distract you.

OMG best time ever

In fact, any constant, overt and overly enthusiastic declarations of someone having the "BEST TIME EVER" probably mean something close to the opposite. People who are genuinely having the best time ever are usually a little more circumspect about it, and understanding of others who maybe aren't. This is classic post-break-up behaviour.

What, this old thing?

Anyone who's insanely attractive and posts a lot of photos of themselves in front of famous things in totally natural poses looking insanely attractive is not having a relaxing and natural holiday: they're working really hard. Those perfect photos don't just take themselves. They're the result of a lot of thought, a lot of effort, and a lot of attempts at getting everything right. Don't be jealous of those people. Trust me, you do not want to travel with them, it's hard work.

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(Same goes for food bloggers, by the way – that plate of food they're eating might look amazing, and it probably is, but think about the amount of time spent getting that photo right before they tucked in and enjoyed it. That's not fun.)

#Selfie

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Photo: Getty Images

A constant barrage of selfies, too, is probably not a good sign. No one who's genuinely having a fulfilling, interesting holiday with lots of new friends is running around taking photos of themselves and posting them day after day on social media. That's more likely a cry for some decent company. Don't feel bad about this, either – we've all travelled by ourselves, we all know what it's like. It's a lonely world out there sometimes.

So inspiring …

As with real estate ads, there are certain code words to look out for in social media posts that will help you figure out what's really going on. Anyone who claims to have had an "authentic" experience probably just had their hotel concierge send them to a slightly cheaper restaurant than usual. If your friends say they've been "humbled" by an experience, then they probably haven't been paying any attention to the world up until now.

Snow worries

If anyone goes on a ski trip and keeps posting photos of the amazing hot chocolate they serve in the cafeteria, it's either raining outside or there are half-hour lift lines.

Think of the children

Anyone who posts a million photos of their kids is just a person who has kids. There's no extra level of meaning there. You just have to get used to it.

Playing coy

People partying

Photo: Alamy

While social media is often used to portray a far more exciting existence than is true, it can also be used to subtly hint that you're having a wilder holiday than is suitable to admit to your parents or work colleagues.

Anyone posting photos of themselves with a bunch of unnamed randoms along with some fairly vague caption about "enjoying new experiences" has probably been awake for five days straight on Ibiza and has just made the decision to never come home. Anyone who just had a "really interesting session with a shaman" has probably just done ayahuasca and has now joined a hippie commune in Guatemala.

The truth is out there on social media. You just have to know how to decode it.

How do you decode travel posts on social media? What are the classics that your friends have posted? Does anyone admit to the bad parts of the travel experience?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

See also: World's happiest animal poses for selfies at Rottnest Island

See also: If you've done this before, you're ruining travel

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