Do We Need Social Media While on Vacation?

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Here I am, baking with cookbook author Greg Patent in Montana. Notice his cookie-making technique: Instead of scooping tablespoons of dough for each cookie, he made a rectangle, cut it into 24 squares, and then we rolled each piece into a ball. Brilliant. (Photo by Owen Rubin.)

I need your advice.

On a recent vacation, my host and I tweeted to each other, while in the same house. Is this a new low, or is this just what it’s like to be on social media these days?

Let me back up and explain. My husband and I stayed with cookbook author Greg Patent and his wife, author and nature writer Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, for a few days in Montana.

Lying in bed in their guest room early one morning, reading email on my laptop, I saw Greg’s tweet:

“Made cheese sambouseks with @diannej yesterday. Iraqi empanadas. We share a common background, and she’s here in my Missoula kitchen!”

(Let me back up a little further: Greg and I met 12 years ago at The Symposium for Professional Food Writers at the Greenbrier, where we discovered our similar background. He grew up in Shanghai, the son of an Iraqi Jew; and both my parents were Iraqi Jews from Shanghai.You don’t run into that every day.)

How can you go wrong when vacationing at a baker's house? These huckleberry muffins awaited one morning. I found out on Twitter.

So I tweeted back, from bed:

” That was fun, Greg. It was a pleasure to watch such baking mastery in the kitchen.”

He followed with:

“Finally managed to corral enough huckleberries to stir up a batch of sour cream buttermilk muffins. Everything’s ripening late in Montana.”

Fresh huckleberry muffins! I slammed my laptop shut, got dressed, and ran into Greg’s office one floor down, where we both laughed at the silliness of our communication method. Then we had a photo session with the huckleberry muffins, searching for natural light, because Greg has a blog too.

Lunch at a non-descript hotel off the highway featured this incredible view of a bird preserve. (Photo by Owen Rubin)

Later that day, I also put this photo on Facebook, and responded to comments in the car.

But I felt kind of guilty. Is this the new normal on vacation, to communicate with the virtual world while trying to stay in the real one? Should I be thinking in social media terms all the time? Was it rude to communicate with Facebook friends on my phone while on a social outing with live ones?

And my final question: Do you do this too?

(In my defense, my tweeting and Facebooking slowed down by Day 2 and disappeared by Day 3 of vacation.)

One last thing about Greg's kitchen. Aren't these cool? Custom pull-out cooling racks right under the double ovens.

* * *


  1. says

    My boyfriend can get annoyed with me tweeting when we’re together, but only if it feels like I’m ignoring him. (He tweets too). I do think this is where social media is taking us, but it’s all about sharing. Sharing appropiately, not blocking out those you are with.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes. I have had guests who have been on their phones, pressing buttons and looking down, for much of their stay. It’s a little disconcerting, to say the least.

      • says

        We had two guest for several days who never, and I mean never, got off their computers. And when I stayed with them, they were on them constantly. It’s not pleasant at all.

        • diannejacob says

          Oh, that would make me crazy. I would start making little comments.

          One time Owen and I drove a guest to the wine country, and we were looking out at the most splendid landscapes and colors of twilight. In the back seat, we could hear incessant tap tap tap of buttons on the phone. Maddening!

    • diannejacob says

      Hah. Let’s see if you can stay off line with your new toy. I quite enjoyed not reading the newspaper for a few days.

  2. says

    I make a conscious decision before vacation on whether or not there will be a social media time. If my goal is to completely relax and do some deep thinking or connecting with my husband or someone else, no social media. Sometimes will go camping or somewhere that has no phone coverage so there’s no temptation!

    But often I take mini vacations that involve some work and I enjoy sharing the fun parts of those times with my social media friends.

    • diannejacob says

      Hmm. I guess, since I brought my computer, I made a conscious decision too. I have to admit, I enjoyed sharing the fun parts of my vacation with social media friends. But a few days in, it was too much trouble. I enjoyed being in the moment.

  3. says

    Such a good question. It can certainly be a dilemma. I think your story’s very cute…it almost seems like social media enhanced your experience, rather than detracting from it (I love the pics from your trip btw). Different from when someone goes on a family vacation and spends their time tweeting rather than playing with their children…yes? When I am away with my family my husband and I make it a point not to pull out our phones but for once (maybe twice) a day for a brief check in with the outside world. I have to admit it is hard sometimes not to be tempted to go on twitter because i have a fear of missing something LOL. But after a day or so it’s all good. And I welcome the break.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Winnie. We had a good time. Greg’s still getting used to social media and he’s just starting on Twitter.

      Yes, definitely it’s a different story when parents are on their phones all the time. A brief check-in seems sensible, but sometimes it is hard. We’re used to being so attached that we don’t miss anything. But really, not much is that important anyway. Actually that reminds me: I was on the computer, visiting two 81-year olds, when I found out that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. On Twitter.

  4. says

    Great post Diane. I’ve spent some time thinking about this and I used to feel guilty for not engaging in social media while on vacation but I realize that in order to stay sane, I absolutely need to unplug completely or I don’t feel I’ve been away and I feel cheated. Now it feels like a big, giant relief to me to unplug. I pretty much unplug on weekends too (which I realize puts me in the minority and makes me a not very savvy social media person) That said, I enjoyed seeing that otherworldly photo of Montana on Facebook that you posted 😉

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Vanessa. Wow, you have a lot of discipline to completely unplug. I can see it if you’re camping, but if you’re in cities that would be hard – at least it would be hard for me. I used to unplug on weekends, but then I got stressed out by the number of emails waiting for me on Monday morning, so now I make it a point to check on weekends.

  5. says

    I’m guilty of using social media when on holidays, although infrequently, and it drives The Husband crazy. He is a confirmed Luddite and dreams of his retirement when he intends throwing his mobile phone and computer into our dam.
    In my defence, though, food plays such a significant part in my days – and especially when i am somewhere new – that I can’t help but share!

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, and here you are with a food blog and social media while the husband’s a Luddite! That’s some contrast going on, Amanda.

      Yes, it’s fun to take photos of food while on vacation and share them. I see it all the time online.

      • says

        Yes, it’s a constant clash when we are together near food!
        However, I’ll be in the US & Canada next January, and he’s staying home to work so I will be snapping, Tweeting & Facebooking freely!

  6. says

    Hi Dianne,
    I’m a long-time “Will Write for Food” reader, but a first-time commenter.
    I don’t feel guilty about immersing myself in social media on vacation and off vacation, as long as I don’t let real life fall through the cracks. Most of my real-life and online friends and acquaintances are posting updates in cheerful, complimentary, and playful ways (as you and your friend did). I think adult life needs more good cheer, playfulness, and compliment-exchanging, and since we all have such busy lives, sometimes that can only happen when we have a quiet moment on the computer.

    And now I’ll make an anti-social confession: In real life, there are some times when I have to sit around listening to people exchange small-talk or complaints. Then I feel as disconnected, or more disconnected than if I had just buried my head in my iPhone. That sense of disconnection sometimes leads me to feel contemptuous of people whom I deem “boring” (they probably aren’t boring–I can be too snarky).

    So I feel guiltier about my feelings of contempt than I do about being a person who spends a lot of time on the computer. I so enjoy my enriching tribes of fb, the blogosphere, and twitter. Incidentally, thanks to social media, I found out about your blog last year, and then benefited from reading your “Will Write for Food” book.
    Thanks for this thought-provoking post, and cheers to you and your online tribe,
    Becky at and on Twitter @GoalsGamified

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you for saying it was playful. We did enjoy our tweets, but I was not sure about the rest of the actions, as they did not involve my hosts.

      Sometimes I feel disconnected or bored with live people as well. I blame some of this on the short-attention span computers allow us. When online, we can always flip around from writing to Twitter to YouTube to email.

      I do enjoy my tribe, and perhaps that is why I feel a connection to them wherever I am. It seems silly, as I know these people are not really my friends, in the same way.

      Thanks for finding me on social media, and for reading my book. I hope you will continue to read the blog and comment.

  7. says

    While on vacation this summer I completely unplugged. I actually was forced because there was no cell phone reception, wifi, or 3G at our location in the mountains. At first I was a bit frustrated, but as the week went on I felt liberated! I spent an entire week with my family without distraction. When we got home, I was scared to open the computer because I knew I was opening the door to my virtual world. I let my laptop sit on my desk closed for 2 days and then finally took the plunge.

    The lesson for me was that once I pull away, it’s so rewarding to just be, just live and spend uninterrupted time with those I love.

    • diannejacob says

      Lovely, Carrie. Nothing like going somewhere where you’re forced to go offline. I would be scared to open my computer as well. Terrified, in fact! I have not been totally disconnected at all, for years now, it seems.

  8. says

    Loved this post! Too funny! Now I know where you are, Dianne…been trying to reach you and should have tweeted. Montana looks lovely.
    I think it’s all an addiction. Really. And I’m addicted, too. And if I understood Twitter better I’d be REALLY obnoxious.
    I make my cookies that way, too! And also my meatballs. xoxo

    • diannejacob says

      I think so too. I get a little nervous when separated from my gadgets. I have taken to lugging my laptop around with me wherever I go. I got an iPhone so I could check messages and tweet from conferences.

      So Greg’s not the only one to use that technique! Aha. You two are way ahead of me.

  9. says

    Greg Tweeted first and you replied! I think you were just being a polite guest :-) It would have been rude to ignore him, right?!

    I too am taking a break in a little while. I guess that’s the challenge – can we totally switch off for a week or is social media so deeply weaved into our lives now that we feel the need to connect, share and comment ALL the time?

    Personally, I’ve been so caught up with social media that I feel maybe my own family would benefit from me being totally present with them while taking a vacation. Who knows, it may even be liberating!

    • diannejacob says

      Oh thank you. Yes, maybe it would have been rude. But he was right below me, in his office. It all seems so strange.

      I hope you will try this liberation. Maybe as Joanne says we will have to go through withdrawal from the addiction.

  10. says

    Today is my first day on Twitter after a month off. I was travelling internationally and it was prohibitively expensive to get data on my phone, so it turned out to be a forced break. But after a few days I found it quite freeing. (Though I did worry that I might miss something online!) In hindsight, I think I made so many renewed connections with my real life friends that it was well worth it.

    I’m now mildly concerned by my new technology addiction: photography. I don’t think I can stop snapping pictures of everything, and took 1000+ photos on holiday. I wonder sometimes if this annoys those around me as much as phone-button-pushing.

    • diannejacob says

      Oh yes, I can relate to that about photography. I took some guests to a museum last year and they were both on their devices the whole time, either snapping photos, texting or listening to music (well, one was a teenager). I found it annoying.

      This idea that we are missing something on Twitter is interesting. So often I scroll through comments and there’s nothing that engages me. Yet I feel I have to do it.

  11. says

    I had an intelligent, coherent comment all planned out about the importance of enjoying the moment and the company on vacation, though part of enjoying your time away is sharing your discoveries with others…. then you showed me custom pull-out cooling racks.

    Custom pull-out cooling racks! I’m putting them up on Pinterest right now (and I can do that, since I’m not on vacation).

    • diannejacob says

      Aren’t they fantastic? I had never seen those before.

      You are right that I can kind of justify my experiences because they involved my guest. We are still both figuring out Twitter and taking photos for our blogs. So we worked on it together, and it was fun.

  12. says

    My laptop is broken and I bought a fix mac so for the moment I don’t have this problem, but I have to admit that it is better like this otherwise my boyfriend would be upset with me … he doesn’t even have Skype!!! :)

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, if you’re ignoring your boyfriend to hang out with people in social media, I can see why he might be annoyed.

  13. says

    What a surprise to see your post and those great shots of Owen’s, Dianne. After your visit we spent 3 days with family in Yellowstone Park at the Old Faithful Inn and guess what? We had no internet access. And it didn’t matter one whit because we spent the time hiking with our grandsons, getting caught up on life with our son and daughter-in-law, and reveling in the awesomeness of nature and its beauty. And, oh yes, we missed you.

  14. Roze says

    Great post, Diane!

    I had a trip to Maine this year, by car. Eight hours and my partner drove. I was so not bored since I took my iPhone and Facebooked the whole way up and back. Took photos of odd things we saw, where we were at along the way and kept me occupied. Kept my family up to date, gave my friends something to comment on and documented my trip’s journey.

    While there, I shared photos of my family and our adventures throughout the vacation. I was able to get lots of great photos and share my fun with my FB friends! I did the posts during the times when activity was slow and didn’t obsess over my phone or sit and text folks for hours at a time.

    What’s bad about social media (is texting part of social media?) is I own a two-residence home with my brother-in-law/sister-in-law and we will text one another instead of an actual visit to each other’s home for a question we may have or giving an fyi about house stuff.

    And what’s good is that only a short while ago, I made a change to a querty keyboard on my phone so I could keep in touch with my niece, who texts all the time in Maine. Seems it was a great way for us to reconnect and keep in touch with both our lives so busy. It has made a world of difference in our relationship and I love it.

    Funny how these little things make us speak face-to-face less, but somehow keep us connected.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow, you are really into this stuff, and it seems like it’s working for everyone. Except for the part about in-person visits. There’s really no substitute for that.

      • Roze says

        Sometimes yes for the face to face visits, but sometimes it works out boundaries and keeps privacy where it ought to be. And I am really into it and joke that I don’t know what I did before this technology!

  15. says

    I have to comment on that cookie shaping technique. What a brilliant way to make sure the cookies come out even. Definitely using that next time I bake. (On the social media question: I say – it’s too much fun to part with. And if you had disconnected, you wouldn’t have these great stories to share!)

    • diannejacob says

      Hah. Yes, we were having fun with our toys. I just didn’t want it to be a disruptive part of the experience.

      Re the cookie shaping technique, yes, it was so much easier than scooping a tablespoon of dough out of the batter every time and worrying whether the balls were all the same size.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes they are! He also had a slab of marble in the kitchen island, for rolling out pastry; and a wood chopping board with a built-in drawer for discards. Loved cooking and baking in his huge kitchen.

  16. says

    One of your readers asked if texting was social media; good question but I do know what it can be. Annoying. Both my 27 year old daughter and a friend of mine seem to think it’s OK to text constantly. During dinner out, while watching movies together, certainly when we’re in the car and I’m driving (I’m sure I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that I am not their cab driver!).

    It’s a bit convoluted…their being social on their phone but not with the person they are with. Having a thousand Facebook fans yet no longer interested in Face to Face communication?

    I make a point of disconnecting when I’m with friends but that doesn’t mean I won’t text a photo of something I see in a tweet or respond to a DM but I really find it important to not do what I hate having done to me…and this is ignoring the person/people I’m with to stay connected with those online.

    I think your exchange was funny and perfectly acceptable…if you had shared that you never saw Greg all day but were in the same house and kept in touch with him via Twitter…OK, that might be a problem!

    • diannejacob says

      Texting is definitely social media. And doing it all the time is an addiction problem, from my point of view. I hope I never get to the point of your daughter and friend. I think it’s an intimacy issue as well — the inability to just be with the person you’re with.

      • Roze says

        That was me who asked if texting was ‘social media’ and I’m not really sure it is or isn’t. Would using a telephone be considered social media and if so, we’ve been doing it for a long, long time!

        To me texting is much like using the phone. You’re basically having a one-on-one conversation and not a social event.

        Social means having a community and not isolated, as in a church social, socializing with a crowd at a party or a job’s networking event. Whereas a conversation between two people is a private act, (or should be and not like a public event in a crowded elevator or in a store) whether on the phone or through texting or even email.

        Once you bring the conversation out to Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, Twitter, etc…it’s then a social media action and not longer private.

        • diannejacob says

          Okay. Makes sense. I was thinking of it as being a public event, if you’re doing it while with other people, so that’s how I got to it being social media. But it’s not aimed at more than one person, so your description is correct.

  17. says

    I love Owen’s photo of you and Greg in our kitchen, Dianne–so happy to be cooking together! I’m not into Twitter yet, but Greg and I often forward emails up and downstairs to each other. Very convenient!
    We loved your visit and appreciate Owen’s masterful work fixing up our computers–he’s brilliant!

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you Dorothy, for chiming in. I hope it wasn’t too disconcerting to see your kitchen on display to my readers. That’s part of this new world we’re in.

      Owen is my 24/7 tech support person and I know I’m incredibly lucky. He loves helping people, so that makes him a good house guest when it comes to computer stuff.

      We loved visiting with you. Next time it will not be the subject of a post. XO

  18. says

    I just got home last night from a mini vacation with my family. Mini as in a 3-night stay a 120 miles from our house. I like to call it “going off the grid” and unplugging is a high priority. NO social media whatsoever. I never worry I am missing something because I’ve found I just pick back up where I left off. That’s the beauty of Twitter. As for tweeting under the same roof! My husband and I will be in opposite ends of our house and ichat. Yes, it is ridiculous, and we always laugh about it and chalk it up the modern age we live in.

    • diannejacob says

      What’s funny is that most of the time we’re not missing anything important. It’s more about the anxiety of not being connected.

      Yes, Dorothy and Greg said they email each other stuff. Owen and I do that too. Sometimes we will call each other if he’s upstairs and I’m downstairs in my office, such as “Want to have lunch?” As long as we can laugh about it, it’s working, eh?

      • says

        Emailing back and forth is much less invasive than the system one friend/colleague has, with an intercom in her study; suddenly her husband’s voice will boom, “Do you want some lunch?” while she and I are skyping!

        • diannejacob says

          Hah! That would make me jump. I’ve never liked the idea of intercoms anyway.

          I remember being on a conference call with a writer and my editor, talking over his story (I was his editor), when his kid picked up the phone and said, “Daddy, I have to make a poo-poo.” He got his dad’s attention.

  19. says

    First, your story with Greg is a very interesting one; particularly as you said Iraqi Jews from Shanghai? How often that can happen? It reminded me my story, but this is not the place for that story.

    There is nothing unusual in tweeting or messaging on Facebook, sending your blog post or writing up a note on Facebook, showing that you alive on LinkedIn and making sure that your blog post was sent to StumbleUpon, Digg or the other bookmarks.

    I learned it the hard way. You cannot have a day without communicating in Social Media because it will work against you. We are all working hard using various techniques to increase traffic in single digits in our blog or website; but if you are missing from social media for two days, all your efforts were in vain, because people will drop you following your absence.

    So, while I do not think that you have to be concerned too much with the crowd that seem not to have enough of you, most of us should show up for work every day.

  20. says

    Of course, it is a personal thing, but we don’t take any technology on vacation, so I wouldn’t dream of tweeting when I’m supposed to be detaching from my daily life! Computers stay at home, and we just carry a prepaid phone for necessities (even with that, the flashlight on it gets more use than the phone itself). No texting, tweeting, emailing, reading emails, or really even thinking about anything that has to do with work. That’s detoxing to me, and honestly, is your social network going to crumble just because you aren’t there for a week? To date, my world hasn’t come crashing down on me, and I get a real break on vacation. If we don’t have time to get away, then we simply unplug for a day and enjoy the other things our daily life has to offer!

    I don’t agree with Jayne at all either. I set up feeds and schedule posts in advance, and many times have even seen bumps in traffic even when away. It really depends on the content. I’ve never “lost” numbers on any site just because I was on vacation. Anyway, we all have different takes on life. I’m just not a big fan of technology 24/7 :)

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, I’m not either. And sometimes my Facebook fan page has more action when I’m not active on it. Figure that one out!?

  21. Jeanne says

    I think what you and Greg did was fine. Heck, my husband and I have been known to tweet each other across the room on occasion. If all thst you did was tweet and FB each other, then it would be weird. I think if someone is constantly plugged in, ignoring the people around them, it is rude and a sign of imbalance and addiction.

    Also, I love the pull out cooling racks!! So awesome!

    • diannejacob says

      You tweet across the room to each other? That’s funny. I don’t think I would do that. Really, the only reason Greg tweeted is because I’d been bugging him to do so once a day.

      The cooling racks are genius, I agree!

  22. Elizabeth says

    I’m in love with the intelligence of this blog. I found my way here from The Pioneer Woman. I just wanted to thank you. I’m not a foodie, or a blogger. Just a teacher in LA.

  23. says


    Balance, just balance. When someone is in the room. I’m there with them unless they, are online as well. Vacations are about doing what you want to do, so if it doesn’t interfere with others, go to it girl! Besides, there are so many cool and yummy food discoveries to share with others that you have just GOT TO tell others about like NOW ! So Do it!

    • diannejacob says

      So I suppose I was rude then, by your standards, because I was checking the responses to my Facebook photo of Montana. Oh well. Live and learn. But apparently I was okay with the Greg exchange. Maybe that makes up for it. Thanks, Rose.

  24. says

    It’s hard to pull away from the computer and all the social media when we do it all day as part of our business. However, when you’re on vacation and with others try to refrain when sitting and standing next to them. If in your own room at night or off by yourself then I think it’s fine. Im guilty of this as well. What’s worse is that I could be sitting with people and have caught myself looking at my phone if the conversation didn’t interest me. I’ve since stopped that when my daughter and sister both looked at me while we were all together and said I was being rude. They were right. Now I use self control.

    • diannejacob says

      Good for your daughter and sister for calling you out! I suppose it’s not very cool to demonstrate to people that their conversation was boring you. I know someone who checks her email messages while we’re talking on the phone. I can tell because she makes it obvious — she breaks in to read me something she’s reading on the screen! Now that’s rude.

  25. says

    I remember skyping with a friend in Virginia once and she told me that her husband and she communicate via skype while they are both in the same house just so neither has to move from his or her office space. I found that really odd and rather impersonal. I communicate with my sons on Facebook but only when they are not home. And when I am on vacation, if I have access to a computer, I just pop on once or twice a day for a quick check. I know that I would be on it more often when on vacation if I had the possibility, so being without tends to force me to realize how nice and relaxing it is away from the computer and social media! We had guests this weekend and my husband did get mad once or twice as I hovered around the computer. I know that others are understanding if there is something going on and we need to check, answer or update, but more than that is rude. But it also depends on what everyone else is doing!

    • diannejacob says

      It’s easier to be away from media if you don’t take your computer with you on vacation, that’s for sure. But when you’re staying in a wired house with other people who also have do a little work each day, it’s harder to be detached.

      What’s pathetic is that I don’t always find it relaxing to be away from it all — sometimes it gives me anxiety.

      • says

        I so agree with you. In this crazy world of internet, I always have the feeling that people will simply forget who I am if I stay away too long. I also feel that I miss so much as things seem to happen so fast! This trip home I will be bringing my computer and leaving my husband at home in France so I know I will be spending a lot of time connected.

        • diannejacob says

          Oh yes. Fewer distractions without the hubby around. I’m taking my computer on the plane, so I can work. See you in a few days!

  26. says

    It is hard to be unplugged, we came to a point that we feel like one limb is missing if we do not check into FB or tweet.
    I say too much of a good thing is bad. For my work as well , I am always answering emails, forwarding emails, responding to the questions, where this file is or this drawing is. Even when I am visiting my family in Turkey. And I feel divided, neither here nor there. Not giving my full attention to anyone.
    It is ok to check to make sure everything is going fine, but we should not feel obligated to update our status every minute or respond to the boss’s every single email. We are not paying attention to our surroundings, in that case, so what is the point of getting there in the first place.
    I think we are overloaded with social media. Sometimes, I want my friends to call me to say Happy Birthday, not leave a message on FB and call it a Birthday message. :)
    I am just afraid we are losing the touch with the real people and real vacations sometimes .

  27. Mrs Q says

    Just got back from vacation. There was no internet so there was no way I could tweet, facebook, or blog — except from my phone. I tweeted three times and shared two things on facebook all from my phone.

    I also slept the best I have all year: 10 hours a night and a nap every day. It was a real vacation!

  28. says

    Can’t wait to try this cookie shape method. I am not intoTweeting, Facebbok in not really my thing, but i would be lost without my laptop when we travel; Have been with my Blackberry for 2 1/2 years and just graduated to The Andfroid Galaxy.

  29. says

    I prefer to go offline but I actually feel the pressure to participate socially at all times because so many of my colleagues do. I have absolutely not found a balance yet. I’m not sure I’ll ever cross over to the *always on* side, because I find it really annoying when other people are. And when my toddler daughter starting marching over to my laptop and pushing it shut, demanding “close! close!” I felt like a jerk and took it as a serious red flag to tune in to the real life.

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