If you’re dedicated to your job, you’ve probably answered a few work emails during your vacation. What’s the harm, right? A few emails won’t ruin anything. And FOMO — fear of missing out — is real. Our smartphones hold our whole lives: camera, email, texts, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (at least for some of us.) The siren’s call of clicking on those apps can be hard to resist on your vacation. What if you get an important work email or great opportunity? What if you miss out on that social media post of all your friends having fun without you?
But lift your hand from that screen. According to a new HomeAway study in partnership with the University of Texas, the best thing you can do for your own peace of mind is to limit your phone usage and work-related activities on vacation. Even a little bit of social engagement or work can wipe out all the good memories you will have from being away from home.
Looking at our devices affects our brains and memories
Even working for just one hour a day during your vacation can have far-reaching consequences for the memorability of your trip.
Of the 713 adults HomeAway surveyed in six countries, those who checked their devices for an hour on vacation were 43% more likely to not be able to remember the details of their vacation. In other words, if we work while we’re away, work quickly takes over our brains, pushing out everything else.
It’s not just the time, it’s also the device. Using laptops, in particular, had a negative effect on memory recall. How can you remember that delicious local food or a sunny beach when you’re focusing on a big, cold, digital screen? You can’t—literally.
So how much time should you spend working while on vacation?
Get this: Less than an hour.
HomeAway found that 60% of those who kept their phone usage to under an hour and had total recall of their vacation.
For the best vacation memories, use Instagram
Okay, so working on your vacation is bad and detracts from the whole point of a vacation to make fun, memorable, restorative experiences.
But what about checking your Instagram?
Social media did not have an effect on a participant’s ability to recall events, but it did play a role in their ability to recall how they felt on vacation. Participants who uploaded their trip photos to social media showed more emotional recall.
And the type of platform you choose to use can also determine how much of a helpful memory aid the the technology can be. People who posted to Instagram were 24% more likely than Facebook users to remember with total clarity how they felt on vacations. The difference between Facebook and Instagram makes sense when you recognize how Instagram is a much more visual platform than Facebook, which makes it ideal for photos.
Overall, the takeaway is to limit your smartphone use to vacation-related activities like looking up directions to your hotel; everything else can wait until you’re back home and working.