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French public struggling to cut holiday smartphone use

Despite 83% of French people saying they want to reduce their digital device use on holiday, 92% still plan to bring an Internet-connected device with them when they travel.

That’s according to a new survey from the phone network Orange and Kantar TNS, which also found that 50% of the population is not planning to travel anywhere that does not have phone signal or internet connection.

The tension between those who say they want to cut down on digital use but still plan to take their devices away with them is shown in the rise of ‘digital detox’ holidays, which often require guests to physically check in their smartphones at reception during their stay.

The Vichy Céléstin Spa Hotel, which started offering digital detox holidays in 2014, says that guests must check in their connected equipment when they arrive, and agree not to have a television in their bedroom. Instead, bedrooms have books, and a hi-fi playing relaxing music.

There are also well-being sessions every day, including a special massage to ease tension, and a counsellor who gives advice on how better to manage daily life back in the working world.

‘‘The feedback we get shows that these clients learn to turn off their phones when they get home and enjoy time with their family,” explains Florence Rochelois, at the Vichy Céléstin. “And they also pass on this new approach to other people in their team.”

In Nantes, a group called Afterwork Digital Detox meets up twice a month to focus on “living for the moment” rather than constantly phone checking.

Organiser Borja Márquez says it helps him and his friends has improved his social skills and respect for his friends, as he no longer checks his phone when on a night out, or walks around town “like a zombie looking at [my] phone”.

Digital detox? Tips to reduce smartphone use on your summer holiday

  • Disconnect your internet (‘airplane mode’) and only use your phone for taking photos, listening to music or podcasts, reading, or checking restaurant recommendations when necessary
  • Delete apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or your email, for the duration of your holiday, or simply vow not to open them when you are away
  • Install ‘lite’ versions of your favourite apps if you simply cannot do without them, such as Messenger Lite, which offers Facebook Messenger away from all the newsfeed stories, games, and notifications
  • Replace your smartphone altogether, and use a ‘dumb phone’ - that is, an old-fashioned mobile that only allows you to make calls - instead, so you can keep connected without surfing the internet
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