Pre-Internet, few invitations were more tedious than ones soliciting you to look at vacation photos. Now Facebook (www.facebook.com) allows you to view your friends' trip pictures from a safe distance, without having to pretend that you're interested.
Sharing photos on Facebook still comes with social mores, however. Just because you have the ability to post blow-by-blow accounts of your family vacation doesn't mean that you should. As with anything involving social media, there's a point where voyeuristic glimpses into someone else's life stop being enjoyable -- and start becoming obnoxious.
So how do you know if you've crossed that line? The beauty of Facebook -- or most social media networks -- is that feedback is instantaneous. You'll know that you've gone too far when your friends stop "liking" your photos or when the posted comments have a noticeable undercurrent of hostility.
Don't let your Facebook feed get to that point. Here are a few tips on how to share your vacation photos effectively, without irritating your friends and family:
Less is more. It's always better to post one outstanding photo than a bunch of mediocre ones. Think of Facebook as a virtual cocktail party: Do you want to be the person who adds to the conversation? Or the one who drearily overshares?
Give some thought to what kind of pictures you post. Quirky shots work well on Facebook, as do photos that show something thought-provoking, unusual, or cute. Or elevate an average iPhone shot with an editing effects program such as Instagram (http://instagr.am/). "It has to be a little bit special for you to post it on Facebook," says Shirine Saad (www.shirinesaad.com), a New York-based travel and fashion writer who has seen one too many inappropriate pictures. "You can't post too much. And don't post about everything you're eating."
Use privacy settings. Facebook's latest privacy tweak allows you select exactly who will see your uploads. Consider creating albums geared toward specific groups of friends. Grandparents may want to see multiple photos of baby's first trip to the beach, for example, while one could suffice for the rest of us.
Organize your photos. Illustrate your travels with just one or two photos on Facebook. But some destinations -- the more exotic, the better -- do deserve their own Facebook album. When creating an album, the rules above still apply: Choose only your most relevant photos and keep the album to a reasonable number. And try to add some context in your captions so people know what they're looking at.
Consider your reputation (present and future). Unless you've done a thorough job of subdividing your Facebook friends into unique privacy categories, think twice about putting up party pictures. You never know when that shot of you enjoying (legal) marijuana in an Amsterdam coffee house will come back to haunt you.
"Don't post drunken pictures," says Orlando-based flight attendant Diana O'Gilvie (www.love2travelwrite.wordpress.com). "You need to think about what kind of impression that people are going to get of you. Decide the kind of person you're going to portray."
Tag with caution. Likewise, think about your friends' privacy. Many people use Facebook as an extension of their business these days -- and you're not doing them a service by identifying them in that drunk destination wedding photo. Luckily, Facebook has made it a requirement now for tags to be approved before they go live. Hint: If your friends keep declining to be tagged in your photos, they aren't happy with the pictures you're posting.