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Research reveals millennials desperate to digitally disconnect hindered by fear of missing out

Millennials desperate to digitally disconnect are being hindered by the fear of missing out (FoMo), social influences and the increasing digitalisation of tourism services, new research reveals.

The study, which was carried out by the University of Greenwich, the University of East Anglia (UEA), and the University of Westminster, looked at millennials’ attitudes to digital detox holidays, and how digital-free travel can result in a better work-life balance.

Participants interviewed for the study, aged 21-35 years old, reported that they were tired of constant connections, recognised the overuse of smartphones in their daily lives and valued digital-free travel as an effective way of achieving improved digital health.

Researchers also found, however, that FoMo, nomophobia – the irrational fear of being without your phone – personal and professional commitments, and unfriendly tourism infrastructure were all obstacles to attaining digital-free travel.

Dr Wenjie Cai, from the University of Greenwich Business School, said: “Switching off digitally and being ‘mentally’ away while on holiday is as important as being physically away. Millennials increasingly want to digital disconnect and view digital detoxes as a way of achieving sustained well-being – ‘psychological sustainability’.

“Regardless of the increasing demands for digital detox holidays, tourism organisations continue to focus on the digitalisation of their services, which makes it challenging for millennials to disconnect. The social expectation that one must be constantly connected also needs to change, and support from various sectors is needed to maximise the benefit of digital-free travel.”

Dr Brad McKenna, from UEA's Norwich Business School, suggests: “Tourism and hospitality providers should notice the growing demands of digital-free travel and cater for this need by diversifying their operations design and planning.”

Dimah Ajeeb, from the School of Architecture + Cities at the University of Westminster, added: "The constant use of technology can have a significant negative impact on the lives of millennials, and a high dependence on smartphones can result in various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Our research shows that digitally disconnecting while on holiday is key to improving this demographic’s digital health, but support is needed to achieve this.”

Seventeen participants born between 1981 and 2000 who use digital technologies daily were selected to take part in the study.

Imagine being off-the-grid: Millennials’ Perceptions of Digital-Free Travel’ by Christina Floros, Wenjie Cai, Brad McKenna and Dimah Ajeeb is published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

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