Earlier this summer, after packing my rucksack for a three-night kayaking and wild-camping holiday in the Stockholm archipelago, I gazed at my belongings, thought about what the sun-kissed and sea-based days ahead might hold, and made a final adjustment to the contents of my bag: I took out my smartphone, and tossed it under my bed.
I emailed my travel companion, a photographer friend called Jacob, and made firm plans to meet at a cafe in Stansted, like people used to do. I asked him if I could have some pictures of our trip afterwards, so I could pop a few up on Facebook and Instagram when I returned. And then I set off, feeling that I was genuinely escaping the stresses and strains of my everyday life. My love life, my job, my friends and family - none of this could touch me for the next three days because the way stress locates us is via our phones.
As a) a travel writer, and b) an inveterate millennial, ditching my phone in an aspirational destination like Sweden felt like the ultimate rebellion. And I’ve noticed more and more of my peers implementing an Insta-ban as they venture off to Santorini, or Cornwall, or Tulum. We’ve realised that for a holiday really to function as a holiday, it needs to be a break from social media - an escape from social status anxiety, from having to photograph every tiny detail of life to prove that we exist.
‘When I went to Goa earlier this year, I took a break from Instagram and Facebook for the entire two weeks because I knew I needed a ‘head holiday’, not just some sunshine and a sunlounger,’ says Roxy Attard, a hair stylist.
‘We had just launched our salon and were doing a huge amount of marketing via Instagram and Facebook. If I didn’t take a break from those two platforms, I would still be at work, even if I was in Goa.’
Virtual or real conversation?
Catherine Price, author of How to Break up with Your Phone and founder of screenlifebalance.com, is fully supportive of this shift towards screen-free holidays. ‘Even if we joined social media platforms out of a desire to share our experiences with loved ones, the reality is that our phones take us out of the moment. We cannot be online and offline at the same time,’ she says. ‘Plus, when we overshare a glossy version of our trip online, we miss out on talking about our trips when we return, which is part of the joy of travel.’
During my three-day Insta-break, my stress levels plummeted within 24 hours, which was about how long it took for my brain to rewire itself and accept that it couldn’t twitch for my phone, that I didn’t need to photograph this moment, that I had no idea whether so-and-so had texted me.
It also changed how I processed the trip itself. I made mental notes of funny moments, cultural observations, tips – and when I returned, I had detailed chats with friends about my time away.
The great promise of social media was that we could share our lives, forge connections, and learn from each other. The reality is that much of what we’re sharing is mild lies, that Insta-oversharing takes the sparkle out of conversation, and that all we’re really learning from each other is FOMO (fear of missing out). Even celebrities who have consolidated their fan base via Instagram or Twitter take social media sabbaticals; Kendall Jenner shook up fans when she “detoxed” from Instagram, saying afterwards: ‘I just wanted a little bit of a break.’
‘We also need to wake up to the fact that if we scroll through Instagram or Facebook on holiday, we are essentially working for them,’ adds Catherine. ‘These apps exist to collect our data and show us algorithmic adverts. If we’ve saved up for a holiday and are spending it on our phone, we’re spending our holiday making Instagram money.’
So, as you plan your trip, ask if you can delete Instagram or Facebook for the duration. The best way to get bang-for-buck from your holiday is to leave social media behind.
The Daily Telegraph