It’s almost scary! At home, at work and during travel – digital technologies have become a routine part of our everyday lives. They transformed work, leisure and travel contexts. The use of technologies has allowed us to connect everyday life and travel, and so causing boundaries between once separated domains. Technology allows for access to anyone, any information, anywhere and anytime.
Connectivity can lead to more enriching and socially-dense experiences as people connect to share experiences with others online. Social media and smartphones enables us to facilitate and enhance tourist experiences and create added value in numerous ways.
Connectivity has not only changed travel. It has changed our wider work and life domains insofar that people can now carry out work, leisure, family and travel activities at the same time!
What does this mean? It means that when we travel we are no longer disconnected but carry our everyday lives – that means life responsibilities and topics as well as worries and joys, with us. These technological and social transformations have contributed to an era of ‘constant-connectivity’ and an ‘always-on culture’.
If You feel affected now, then You are sureLY asking yourself…
Why and how can we disconnect from ICTs?
Is ‘disconnecting’, ‘switching-off’ and ‘going off the grid’ still an option for contemporary tourists in the digital age?
And, if so, is there any deeper motivation to switch off?
What are possible consequences on tourist experiences, work and wellbeing, if people have lost the ability to switch-off?
Being connected 24/7 – the ‘flipside of digital technology’
“We use the phone not as a phone, but as a social connection device.”
Beyond a range of benefits, there can be potential downsides to being connected 24/7, especially when we take a look at once traditionally disconnected non-work, leisure and travel time.
For instance, being always ‘switched-on’ can compromise travel. Recent studies from the field of psychology shows that a lack of regeneration during time-off and travel can lead to pressures, whether real or perceived, and can make it difficult to re-charge batteries, reduce stress and leave work behind.
Escapism in the digital age – is this still possible?
The convenience of connecting with others has interlinked travel and everyday life. As people increasingly connect to their social networks and smartphone devices, it is common for tourists to no longer ‘leave home behind’, but seamlessly engage, communicate and share travel experiences with friends, families, work and social circles online.
However, not until long ago, leisure travel was perceived as the reversal of everyday life. It was seen a means to escape from home and leave the mundane behind. This appears to be no longer the case! Escapism is increasingly fading, as digital technology has opened an ‘era of connectedness’.
The “always on”- culture: Can there be a healthy work-life-balance?
Technology enables people to carry out activities whenever and wherever needed. This calls for a revival of the work-life balance debate.
We need to re-define what work-life separation and balance means in the digital age.
ICTs’ impact on work-life balance creates an always-on culture, which can be positive or negative. For those who are part of the ‘switched-on’ culture, technology use increases permeability between work and life, and this can lead to an unhealthy work-life balance. A ‘healthy’ balance is the core of good personal relationships, health, mental wellbeing and productivity and satisfaction in life and the work place.
By taking a wider organisational health perspective, employers therefore have an interest in ensuring that their workforce takes a break from work and technology……which leads us to travel.
Travel is no longer an ‘isolated event’. In fact, travel extends the physical and virtual spheres, making tourist experiences a simple extension of everyday life.
What happens types of connection or disconnection exist?
Our qualitative study revealed six main types of connectivity vs connectivity behaviour in travel. We have named them as follows:
- Connectivity & fluid life integration,
- Dis(connectivity) & work-based challenges,
- Dis(connectivity) & social obligations and family roles,
- Dis(connectivity) & health and wellbeing,
- Dis(connectivity) & the self, and
- Disconnectivity & digital detox.
1) Connectivity & fluid life integration
The first category is all about staying connected with home. It is about life domain integration where travel, home and work aspects blur and spill-over into the travel domain.
“It’s not living here and working there, and resting somewhere else. It’s about doing everything together.”
2) Dis(connectivity) & Work-Based Challenges
The ability to switch-off during leisure time is often determined by work type (knowledge work, manual work) and work modes (flexible working, working from home, part time or full time), which influence the extent to which individuals feel they can switch off when away from work. Our second category shows the issues of ambivalent connecting and disconnecting that are heavily determined by the characteristics of work, and thus influence technology use decision during travel.
3) Dis(connectivity) & Health and Wellbeing
One of the driving questions was, “whether at all, we still need to switch off?”
The third category shows that the question of switching off is often connected to health concerns. Research studies recognise the negative effects of not switching-off on health and wellbeing. One of the possible causes explaining the inability to switch-off is ‘technology addiction’, from which people can suffer negative consequences, such as stress, reduced productivity, lack of sleep and disconnection from reality as a result of it.
4) Dis(connectivity) & Social Obligations and Family Role
A fourth theme emerged around the idea that people are unable and unwilling to disconnect during holidays because of social obligations and family commitments.
“A key issue is about expectations around technology use. Do I have to be available or not?”
5) Dis(connectivity) & the Self
There is no universal answer as to why and how people connect or disconnect. The fifth category highlights in fact that much debate pointed out that (dis)connectivity is about ‘one’s own choice’, ‘own personality’, ‘own perceived pressure’ and ‘own lifestyle’, but also ‘generational differences’.
6) Disconnectivity & Digital Detox
As people are connected 24/7, there is an increasing interest in going the opposite way, i.e. switching-off for a specific period of time. The sixth and final decision indicates that there is an increasing trend to disconnect.
“Just because people can be always connected, doesn’t mean they should be.”
Our study shows that with research on digital technology rapidly evolving, there is a need to look at the ‘flipside of technology’ and shift the attention to the challenges that emerge around (dis)connectivity in the travel context. Our study opens a much needed debate that goes beyond digital technology in order to have a more accentuated discussion around the ‘paradox’ of connectivity and disconnectivity during leisure time, and wider work-life contexts.
You can cite this article as:
Neuhofer, B. and Ladkin, A. 2017. (Dis)Connectivity in the Travel Context: Setting an Agenda for Research. In: Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2017.
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Feel free to read the book ‘Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2017’: Springer Professional