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Should You Unplug When You’re on Holiday?

In a connected world there’s no such thing as a day off, even when you’re on holiday. When we’re never more than an email away from the office, all it takes is those three magic words – “could you just…” – to suck you back into work mode. But what if you could “unplug” the office, cut the cord from work and really enjoy some time to yourself – would you?

Research suggests you probably wouldn’t, and work isn’t the main reason why. For many of us, our smartphones, social media and all things internet have become synonymous with free time – filling just about every spare moment we have. But maybe it’s about time you treated yourself to a digital detox and really unplugged for your next holiday.

Why do you go on holiday in the first place?

You would expect the answer to involve something like taking a break from work, enjoying a change of scenery or simply getting away from the day-to-day routine. But holiday makers are increasingly using vacation time to show off on social media about the all the wonderful places they get to visit. There’s even a name for it: smoasting, where digital socialites use Facebook and other networks to boast about their lifestyle.

Picture yourself strolling through the heady maze of Marrakech’s spice markets, souks and bazaars. What do you do next – soak up every colour and smell, imprinting them in your memory, or quite literally picture yourself by taking a selfie?

Let’s not pretend there’s anything wrong with taking pictures – especially when you’re on holiday – but selfies and social media snaps are a world away from scenic shots on your trusty DSLR. Selfies aren’t about capturing memories, they’re about showing your “social” groups the most glamorous side of your life, those look at me moments, encouraged by the narcissistic side effects of social media.

Digital devices don’t only drain their own batteries

Okay, let’s forget about smoasting, narcissism and trash talking social media. It’s your holiday and it’s up to you how you want to remember your best moments overseas. The scary thing is that research on the effects of digital devices on our memory suggests our brains struggle to remember things clearly when we’re “plugged in”.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that awareness and attention play vital roles in forming memories that last – something that becomes increasingly difficult with the distraction of smartphones and other devices.

Let’s say you spend two weeks exploring the rich cuisine, ancient ruins and incredible landscapes of Greece – it would be nice to remember these experiences clearly, wouldn’t it?

Unplug now and you’ll be more productive later

When Randi Zuckerberg, sister of Facebook founder Mark and an integral part of the network’s marketing team encourages people to “unplug” there must be something to it. We’re talking about a women who’s more involved in the tech industry than most of us, managing and working within numerous digital teams that demand the best results.

However, it’s these tech experts who understand the need for digital downtime more than anyone – for the sake of productivity, if nothing else. According to American Scientific, “Research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.”

More to the point, if you travel to an idyllic location like the Maldives, and you spend more time looking at your phone screen than golden sand and glistening water, you have to question the role technology pays in our lives.

So next time you book your tickets for a well-earned rest, why not challenge yourself to a digital detox and remind yourself what it’s like to live in an unplugged world?