Does virtual travel cramp your style?

Story highlights

Travelers -- and their friends -- are experiencing vacations through online posts

Some people get overwhelmed by the number of friends' vacation photos online

People have always used photography to shape a positive public image of themselves

Consider putting down your smartphone to actually experience your vacation

CNN  — 

Bernice Radle doesn’t stay put.

This year alone, the Buffalo-based green consultant has traveled for work or pleasure to Boston, New York, Nantucket, Baltimore, Providence, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal and all over New Hampshire.

And you’d know that if you followed her travels on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, LinkedIn or her blog.

“I look at photo sharing through social media as a way to influence my friends and followers to check out cities, public art and urban spaces,” said Radle, 26. “It is a great way to sort of educate on how cool, hip, fun, interesting a city is.”

No longer do vacationers wait for photos and slides to be developed so they can put together albums or slideshows to entertain (or bore) the relatives and friends. Using a variety of social media, travelers can post highlights of their vacations as they travel, document every single meal and complain about hotel or airline mistakes in time for the businesses to correct them.

Is the photo better than the trip?

“What we’re seeing is an elaboration of what we consider to be our circle of friends,” said Karen Cerulo, a sociology professor at Rutgers University. “When we go away, we take the people in our Internet circle with us. We want to share the time that we’re having with them. This is the growth of our interaction circles.”

But all that incessant posting raises some questions: Do your friends – and, let’s face it, acquaintances you rarely see in the flesh – want to vacation virtually with you? And are you losing out on the experience by fiddling with your phone?

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Your vacation on social media

Jason Lloyd Clement considers his online vacation behavior an extension of his work creating content for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website.

The Washington resident is passionate about cities and all of their ingredients: traffic, people, street art, old buildings and modern architecture, and he sees social media as a way to share his love with his friends and family. (It also informs his mother that he’s OK.)

“While I’m on the road, I use Instagram and Twitter to document all the little details of a trip, especially food and quirky things I encounter,” Clement, 29, wrote in an e-mail. “I also sometimes make quick YouTube videos when I travel, like this clip of a bike ride through Buenos Aires and this little rant on why I hate napkins in South America.”

When he gets home, he often posts full collections of photos to Facebook and Flickr and remembers his trips on a board dedicated to travel on Pinterest.

Although he gets positive feedback about his postings, Clement knows he could be overwhelming some people: He was the kid in school who brought five things for show-and-tell instead of one. “Perhaps that was foreshadowing,” he writes.

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Technology makes for an overload of photos

Some posters can go overboard, says Wei Tchou, a Brooklyn graduate student who promises that she does like her friends’ vacation pictures. At least the ones with her friends in the pictures.

“Landscape shots all start to look the same pretty quickly (as) you’re like, scrolling through,” Tchou wrote. “Pretty soon you aren’t sure if you’re just cycling through the entire album loads of times or if there really are, you know, 500 photos of the same beach in Hilton Head at sunset.”

Now that it’s so easy to photograph and publish to social media, travelers can take an unlimited number of photos and post 200 to 300 of their trips, says Joanne Cantor, a communications professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

“Nobody wants to go through that many pictures to find a few that are great,” she said. “We’re not editing ourselves the way we used to.”