If you’re going on vacation, you might need a detox – from your digital devices.
New research from the University of East Anglia, the University of Greenwich, and Auckland University of Technology examined the effect on travelers as they found themselves without an immediate way to connect to the internet, tap into social media, or use their smartphone or laptop.
The researchers cut travelers’ off from their digital devices, then gauged their emotions before they detoxed from them – both while they were traveling device-free, and when they re-connected.
Twenty-four people from seven countries participated in the study, recording their emotions in a diary and later via interviews. Most were disconnected for over 24 hours. In general, most travelers found being disconnected to be a negative experience.
While many travelers initially felt anxious, frustrated, and in withdrawal, researchers found, once they “detoxed,” they eventually felt acceptance, then the enjoyment of their vacations, then even feelings of freedom.
“People do not miss the technology itself, rather they miss the things they can do with technology, like send a text message, navigate with maps, share experiences on social media,” researchers explained to Inverse.
Once detached, travelers reported unique experiences – interacting with the locals and getting recommendations from them about sites on their vacation they wouldn’t have found out about otherwise, for example. They also interacted more with their traveling buddies. Some also said they felt more attentive and focused.
“In the current ever-connected world, people are used to constant information access and various services provided by different applications,” said lead author Dr. Wenjie Cai, from the University of Greenwich Business School, in a release.
“However, many people are increasingly getting tired of constant connections through technologies and there is a growing trend for digital-free tourism… our participants reported that they not only engaged more with other travelers and locals during their disconnected travels, but that they also spent more time with their travel companions.”
There was one type of traveler that didn’t suffer a particularly uncomfortable digital detox: those traveling in a couple or a group.
Everyone, however, felt a rush of anxiety when their devices were turned back on, as they were hit with pings and incoming emails and notifications.
Digital detox vacations are becoming more popular – they’re even being promoted on national tourism websites like Visit Scotland, according to Inverse.