This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Travels with social media

This post is part of a series of thank-you notes to the social media services that made our family vacation possible!

Dear Facebook,

I know that we’re together so much that sometimes it feels like I take you for granted, and I don’t tell you how much it means to have you in my life. But our recent holiday together really helped get the spark back, and reminded me of what makes you so special.

Without you, Facebook, I wouldn’t have discovered the beautiful Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, where we camped for two glorious nights, thanks to a tip from the beloved Jessi. I found it because I posted a question on my wall:

My request for advice on where to camp with kids in Northern California

And that Facebook post is what also led us to the Andiron Inn near Mendocino. Because, you know, when you ask for camping suggestions, what you are really expecting is:

Madeline's comment suggests her inn, the Andiron

I’ll confess: we booked our visit in the spirit of “isn’t it cool that someone we know owns an inn?” But it turned out that it wasn’t just a fine place to stay…it was a totally relaxing, delightful, beautiful, immaculate, fun and inspiring experience. The suite we stayed in was a tribute to Madeline’s mum and dad’s WWI romance, decorated with their love letters and other mementos of the time. It was all I could do to keep from unboxing my ancestral papers the second we got home!

See, this is the kind of serendipity you make possible, dear Facebook.

Here are some of the other ways you made this the best vacation ever:

  1. Road trip triage. When we realized we didn’t have enough time to see both the coastal redwoods and Yosemite, we asked our Facebook peeps to help us decide. The overwhelming consensus in favour of the redwoods made our decision easy!
  2. The BlababoothWe visited a couple of touristy spots that had the traditional photo booth — with a twist. The strip of photos it printed out included a code that let us share our photo strip on Facebook, and watch a YouTube video capturing the quarreling that went on while getting everyone to pose. Super fun!
  3. Need-specific activity planning. I asked friends for their picks of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco. Their answers helped me get beyond the universal touristy recommendations, and find the kinds of activities we knew our kids would like.
  4. Audience-specific travelogue. We kept our friends and family amused with our endlessly delightful kid photos and stories (they were endlessly delightful, right?) that are visible only to a small circle. We shared reviews of our favourite stops by cross-posting from Yelp, visible to anyone. And we shared selected snaps with our whole circle of friends — enough to be charming, not enough to be tedious.
  5. Arrange special opportunities. One of our kids wanted to visit a relatively inaccessible destination as part of our trip. I asked our Facebook friends for help — and got an introduction that made a very memorable visit possible.
  6. Create a trip timeline. Even if you’re not diligent about reviewing stops or uploading photos the second you write or take them, posting them to your Facebook timeline gives you the option to edit the date. That allowed me to turn my Facebook timeline into a chronologically-accurate record of our trip, which I know my great-great-grandchildren will appreciate and treasure when they figure out how to scan a Facebook server with their nanobot implants.
  7. Pay it forward. One of the friends following our travelogue was planning a similar trip herself. Once she started asking questions about my posts, I made a point of addressing her likely travel needs — like finding gluten-free food — in my reviews. ‘Cause I’m that kind of Facebook friend.

Ironically, dear Facebook, there was one more way your presence was felt throughout our vacation: by the apparently endless stream of criticism targeted at your IPO. And I know that kind of thing can really leave a social network feeling down in the dumps.

But that’s why I wanted to thank you for what you did for us — not your shareholders, but your grateful users. We still know what makes you special.

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