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When away on vacation, you may need your phone for directions, to translate a foreign language or to keep travel documents on hand. But the attachment that many people have to their phones can also end up ruining the experience.
Did you know that 40% of Gen Z and millennials measure the success of their vacations based on how well their posts about it did on social media? Attempting to create the perfect posts can take away from the whole point of a trip, with some travel destinations reduced to basic photo-ops. It can also lead to over-tourism and pollution, with so many travelers gathering in the same places (you know, the ones they keep seeing on Instagram) without respecting the area.
Our phones can also take us out of these new places entirely. “People primarily use their phones for leisure; that’s how phones are marketed, that’s how they’re sold. They’re lifestyle enhancers, they’re leisure devices,” said Andrew Lepp, a professor at Kent State University who studies how cell phones and social media affect behavior. “The question then is: Do they enhance our leisure or do they distract from it? It can do both, but if we’re not careful, it can diminish our experience of leisure.”
For example, have you ever responded to a work email when you were out of the office? Or scrolled through Instagram when you could instead be enjoying new scenery? Have you scoured the internet for trendy restaurants and bars, ending up at some overcrowded tourist trap? Spent more time trying to get a picture of something instead of fully immersing yourself in the moment?
With this problem in mind, Finland has just introduced a phone-free tourism island called Ulko-Tammio in the country’s Eastern Gulf. Visitors are encouraged to put their phones away and enjoy the natural beauty and culture of the area – no scrolling necessary.
“Switching off your phone, exploring nature and meeting people face to face are bound to boost your mood and well-being. We spend countless hours scrolling our social media feeds, so taking a short break from them means you have more time for new experiences. I’d like to see more initiatives like this that promote digital fasting,” says Sari Castrén, a psychologist and Research Manager at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
“People are not meant to be glued to screens all the time. Even a short digital fast can be useful and improve our well-being and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression,” said Terhi Mustonen, psychologist and Program Manager of the Limitless Gaming and Limitless Social Media programs at the Sosped Foundation.