If you post photographs to your various social media outlets while on vacation, adventure by adventure, are you missing out on your vacation or are you expanding your experience by sharing your adventures with your friends back home?

The first time I saw photos on Facebook from friends who were vacationing on tropical islands, I thought, how can I miss you if you won’t go away?

I also felt guilty. By “liking” and “commenting” on their uploaded photographs, I felt as if I was sucking some of the life out of their vacation. I wished, for them, that they would hoard their holiday experiences for themselves and their families – “Talk amongst yourselves for a week or two,” I remember thinking.

When they could be relaxing and people watching, why take time to post photographs for us chumps back home who didn’t get it together to go to a tropical island?

Last year, my family took a trip to D.C. Unrestrained use of our phones for everything from getting directions to posting on Instagram to snap chatting (the greatest app on Earth for a teenager on vacation with her parents and cheaper than bringing a friend) was in full play. Guilty of excessive phone use, I missed seeing Malia Obama and her friends walk by because I was busy googling “cozy Italian restaurants in Georgetown.”

I recently sat next to two musicians in Central Park who looked like they might have been playing for the public in that same spot for the last 40 years. Busking for the masses was how they made their living. The man played a handmade dulcimer. I know it was handmade because I sat there long enough to listen to dozens of tourists ask the same questions over and over: What kind of instrument is that? Did you make it?

The woman played a harp. No one asked her if she made the harp.

Walking with their iPhones as their guides, hundreds of tourists stopped in their tracks to take photos of these curious musicians and their quirky instruments. Only one person asked permission.

Phones have turned us into manic recorders of everything in front of us that might be considered interesting to our friends and followers. Every performance, every spontaneous street happening is an opportunity to share something fabulous, we think.

Resisting pulling my phone out to record kids singing spirituals under a bridge proved impossible that day in Central Park. Beautiful voices in a historic setting became the interesting moment of my vacation. My fascinating video of a fascinating performance was the experience that I needed to post right then to prove to myself and to my friends that I was experiencing something. But posting and uploading takes time, and if it doesn’t work instantly, I become anxious.

Tiny bits of my precious vacation vanish while I fumble with my phone to upload a video of beautiful music that is happening right in front of me. An old-fashioned feeling that the moment is lost if I don’t pay attention to what I am seeing is replaced by a modern feeling that the moment is lost if I don’t post what I’m seeing.

And then there’s the awareness that thousands of others are posting the same video at the same time. Why bother recording a video, I think, when I could just search for it on YouTube and share a perfectly edited version with my friends at my leisure?

But the impulse to “share” that day in the park was too strong and I managed to upload it to my Facebook with limited success. My camera was facing the wrong way and I got an instant reply from a friend (500 miles away) saying, “Turn your camera around!” I responded instantly, of course, replying “Turn your Mac around.”

Was 10 minutes of my precious vacation lost with uploading and responding to my upload, or was sharing the experience with my friend part of the vacation?

In my early 20s, with no device to distract me, I sat on stoops and curbs and benches and watched people for hours. When I got bored, I would switch things up and just look at their shoes – sneakers, mostly sneakers, passed me by.

Time, I had and people watching was free. It still is.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

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