We left for a 2 week adventure to Vancouver Island earlier this month, and like many people, I was looking forward to sharing our vacation snaps with my friends via Instagram. When my slightly internet-phobic husband told me he didn’t want me to Instagram or Facebook any pictures in case the “bad internet people” might see them, I was disappointed. He imagined that someone might figure out where we live and break into our house. These creepy imaginary internet burglars would have been in for a disappointment themselves when they came in and saw the old TV, tattered couches and measly pocket change in the front desk.
My husband is one of those people that only recently learned how to really use the internet. He is just much more interested in other things. He reluctantly joined Facebook so we could set up a page for his business, and he will probably never join Instagram. He has realized lately that had it not been for Instagram, we wouldn’t have these lovely little photobooks to look through of the past 6 years (thank you Chatbooks) but I realized that he did have a point, not so much about the safety element, but about what I might learn by taking a mini social media break on our vacation.
I want to make something clear - I love seeing instagram stories and pictures of others’ vacations and day to day life. I have gotten to know so many wonderful people through my favourite social media platform. I’m not writing this to say you need to do the same thing (heck, I never would have done it unless I had to!) but here are 5 things that changed for me when I wasn’t instagramming our adventures on vacation:
I took different pictures - I wasn’t trying to get the perfect surf boomerang for my stories, so I would pull out my real camera and take a few pictures of the kids and then get back in the moment of beachcombing, hiking or swimming. Lots of times I left my phone and DSLR in our car and just grabbed my husband’s phone if we wanted a picture. I wasn’t searching for the perfect instagrammable moments or imagining captions in my heads (don’t tell me I am the only one who does this?) but just snapping a few pictures for our albums at home that would help us remember this magical trip. I also realized how hard it is to really take a picture that captures the true beauty of the moment, and totally did little Jim & Pam wedding day “snaps” of the best moments to keep in my memories.
I didn’t experience vacation FOMO - there are so many features on social media platforms nowadays and by using the location feature on instagram I could have jumped into the experiences of lots of other people when we were on the island. I might have seen people eating at a better restaurant or exploring a nicer beach or having what looks to be a better time and felt that what we were doing wasn’t good enough. Instead, we just made our plans each day with a bit of research (both internet and talking to locals) and then got out and enjoyed our day. Had I instagrammed each day, I might have invited suggestions from people who had traveled there before, and though their advice might have led us to some beautiful places, it also could have been that extra bit of information that made me second guess our plans or worry that we weren’t focusing on the right things.
I talked to locals more - Because I wasn’t looking at my phone much during our days adventuring, I didn’t feel the need to check yelp for restaurant reviews as much, or google best places to bring kids for a hike or swim. We got more comfortable asking our server in a restaurant or the guy working at the marina. We met so many friendly people who were happy to share with us. We even met a lovely fisherman in Tofino who gave us great tips on bait, and then found out he actually lives minutes from our house in Calgary.
I wasn’t thinking about other people or back home - not instagramming our vacation meant I spent a lot less time on social media. I checked it from time to time, but since I wasn’t putting anything on there, they were short visits. I wasn’t watching the details of others’ lives, or thinking much about what was going on back home. We have all said since we got back that the vacation felt like a bit of a dream. It was a break from our day to day life, and the time off of instagram was a break from watching others’ days as well. Not to say I don’t love getting to know people via Instagram, I really do, and have met such wonderful people on there, but it can sometimes feel like a lot of mental space to be “involved” in so many people’s lives.
I was more present - The ultimate gift for me from this time was feeling much more grounded and present in my experiences - both in nature and with my family. The first morning we were in Sooke, my daughter woke up early, and we went down to the beach and looked for crabs in the dense morning fog. We had another special morning together in Parksville, walking along the beach and finding starfish and sharing a coffee date together. I felt myself taking in these moments with all my senses, really being there with the salty sea air, the sand, the chill of the morning, and with the bright brown eyes of my 4 year old who was filled with wonder and awe each time we were at the ocean. I felt connected in a deeper way with my moment to moment experiences and noticed how much easier it was to feel this way when I didn’t have a phone in my pocket asking for my attention.
I quickly realized that not instagramming the moments of our vacation freed up time and mental space for me to enjoy our vacation more fully. The time we spent together became much more about us, and much less about how perfect it looked or what other people might think or say about it.
I did still take a lot of pictures, and I will share a few on social media now that we are back so they can get into our Chatbooks albums, but I am so thankful for this break. I have found myself feeling uncomfortable at times with social media over the past few years, especially as I have dug deeper into mindfulness. This break from the moment to moment capturing of our lives has me wondering how I might use social media more mindfully going forward. I want to remember the visuals of my life but more than that, I want to remember the feeling of being somewhere, fully, with all my senses, and truly believe that kind of experience will form the strongest memories of all.
How do you balance capturing photos and writing down memories so you can look back on them in the future with being in the moment, whether it’s an ordinary day or a magical vacation afternoon?