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The study reveals the emotional journey of digital detox while traveling

New research reveals the emotional journey that tourists embark on when separating from technology and social media while traveling.

The study, conducted by the University of East Anglia (UEA), the University of Greenwich and the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), explored how engaging in tourism without a digital effect affects the holiday experience of travelers. This included the loss of access to technologies such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, the Internet, social media and navigation tools.

The researchers, who themselves participated in the study, examined the emotions of the participants before breaking the relationship, during the termination of the relationship, and after the connection was restored.

Posted in Journal of Travel Research, the findings show that many travelers experienced initial symptoms of anxiety, frustration and withdrawal, but later increased levels of acceptance, enjoyment, and even relief.

The discovery comes as demand for so-called & # 39; digital detox & # 39; holidays. Lead author Dr Wenjie Cai from the University of Greenwich Business School said: “In the current constantly connected world, people are accustomed to constant access to information and different services provided by different applications.

"However, many people are increasingly tired of the ongoing connections through technology and the increasing trend of tourism without digital technology, so it's helpful to see the emotional journey these travelers are going through.

"Our participants reported that they not only worked more with other travelers and locals during unrelated trips, but also spent more time with their escorts."

In addition to looking at emotions, Dr. Cai, working with Dr. Brad McKenn of UEA's Norwich Business School and Dr. Lena Waizenegger of AUT, used attachment theory to understand the loss or gain of technological opportunities while passengers are engaged tourism without digital processing. Google Maps, for example, offers navigation, and when taken away, participants lose their ability to navigate, causing some anxiety.

Dr. McKenna said these findings have valuable implications for tour operators and destination management organizations to gain a better understanding of travelers' emotions when developing offline packages or technology tourism products.

"Understanding what triggers consumer negative and positive emotions can help service providers improve products and marketing strategies," said Dr. McKenna. "The trips our travelers had were different in terms of length and type of destination, which provides useful insight into the various influencing factors on emotions.

"We found that some participants embraced and enjoyed an unrelated experience immediately or after initially struggling, while others needed a little more to embrace the unrelated experience.

"Many also pointed out that they were much more attentive and focused on their environment while disconnected, rather than distracted by incoming messages, notifications or alerts from their mobile apps."

A total of 24 participants from seven countries traveled to 17 countries and regions during the study. Most were interrupted for more than 24 hours and data were collected through diaries and interviews.

Talking to other travelers, especially locals, many reported that they provided great advice and learned about sights, places and beaches that were not on any tourist site or guide but were the highlight of their travels.

After reconnecting, many participants said they were upset and overwhelmed as soon as they saw all the incoming messages and notifications they received during the day they disconnected. However, enjoying interacting with locals and the physical environment while disconnecting, some opted for a second digital detox in the future.

Various factors have influenced how travelers experience the tourism experience without digital digital traffic. Participants were more likely to suffer anxiety and frustration in urban destinations due to the need for navigation, instant access to information, and digital oral word of mouth recommendations. Those from rural and natural destinations, on the other hand, had withdrawal symptoms that could not report safety or kill time.

Participants traveling as a couple or in a group tended to be more confident about breaking up than the passengers themselves. They reported suffering less or not even having negative withdrawal symptoms while traveling with related passengers; while solo travelers usually felt vulnerable without technological assistance in reducing cultural differences, such as unknown language.

On a personal level, withdrawal symptoms were usually more severe for travelers who were involved in digital tourism with many social and professional obligations. They are also more likely to have negative experiences of disconnection. Some participants struggled but could not end the relationship during their travels either because they did not feel safe and thought they would lose or because they had private obligations that did not allow them to be unavailable.


Wenjie Cai, Brad McKenna, and Lena Waizenegger have been featured in "Turn Off: Emotions in Traveling Without Digital Travel" Journal of Travel Research August 14, 2019.

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