NEW YORK (MainStreet) Taking a vacation? If you really want to get some rest and relaxation, you'd better be taking a break from social media, too. Any time spent connecting with a smartphone, tablet or computer even if you're just looking at Facebook photos from a friend's birthday hurts your ability to recharge mentally and physically from the demands of your job. Our experts weigh in on what it really means to get away from it all.
Vacation time means being unplugged from everything, says Bob Diener, co-founder and president of Getaroom.com.
"If you want a real vacation you need to disconnect completely," Diener says. "This means all mediums: social media, text messages, email and phone. The only way you can really rejuvenate is by avoiding everyday distractions."
When you check your social media accounts, you're on a "slippery slope" to working, he says. To open up the Facebook and Twitter apps on your phone or tablet, your finger will likely hover right over your work email. Will you be too tempted? Chances are, when you see a few unread messages, you're going to get pulled in.
"You're going to open it up, and you're going to check it," says Peter Tourian, CEO of Synergy Home Care, a personal care service provider for senior citizens. "When I got into this business 16 years ago, we didn't have cellphones or Facebook or email, and you could leave your work at work. Nowadays it follows you out the door and follows you home you just can't let it follow you on vacation."
Making the most of your vacation time by unplugging your devices and staying away from social media is "mission critical" to your success in and out of the office, says Thomas Claxton, CareerTagged advisory board member.
"Think of your social media accounts as the electronic equivalent of a gateway drug. Checking your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn may seem very benign, but it will ultimately lead to harder electronic device use," he says.
Your vacation is your time to focus on how you want to improve your relationships, personal finances and health, Claxton says. This is your moment to sit back, relax and have a good time do you really want all the "electronic static" of daily life going on vacation with you?
Even if you can resist the pull of work email and view social media as purely a medium for fun, don't discount the possibility of a work connection reaching out to you on social media. They might contact you with a question, a friend request or suggest a meeting, Diener says, and that's not something you need to worry about on vacation.
"Facebook is not only about seeing pictures of someone's wedding or new baby. People communicate through Facebook. I get tons of business-related messages on Skype, LinkedIn, Facebook and other media."
Once you start looking through those, you're back in work mode before you even know what's happening, he says.
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"I know from my own experience that 'I need to check my email, I'll be back in five minutes' quickly turns into an hour or more if you aren't paying attention," says Morag Barrett, CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR and leadership development firm.
Remember the investment you made in your trip, Barrett reminds. Be present and soak up the opportunity, try new foods and visit new locations, and yes, take pictures just don't spend time uploading them to Facebook until you get home.
"If you are on vacation, focus on the people you are traveling with, not the ones you left behind at the office!" she says. "You don't have to put anything on social media in the moment, just enjoy your vacation it can wait."
Before you take your next trip, keep in mind that disconnecting completely takes a little planning. Here are a few tips for making sure social media doesn't hijack your vacation.
Take the social media and email apps off your phone.
"Nowadays your phone is your camera, your email and everything else in one. Remove any social media or work-related apps if you know you're going to be tempted to check," Tourian says.
If this isn't possible or you know you'll just re-install those apps while you're away, take a different camera entirely and leave your phone at home.
Set up an automatic "out-of-office" message on your work email.
"People assume when they send you an email they're going to get instant response, but if you put your out-of-office on, they won't be expecting you to respond as readily," Diener says.
Make sure your automatic response includes a name and email address for someone who can be contacted in your absence.
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"Otherwise you're going to be nervous while you're away, always checking to see if someone needs something."
Lock your phone in the hotel safe.
If you need your phone to get from place to place but want to disconnect once you make it to your destination, Barrett recommends locking your phone in the safe in your hotel.
"Get a friend or spouse to set the combination so you can't take a look," she says. "You've got to commit to time away from your smartphone."
If you're really addicted, go somewhere there's no Internet access or where it costs a fortune.
"Find a remote cabin in the woods with no Internet or cellular signal," Tourian says. "If there's no way for you to connect unless you take a 20-mile drive, the temptation is gone."
Also, if you like cruises, consider getting on a boat.
"Take a cruise where Internet access is $10 a minute," he says. "It's cost prohibitive."
Research restaurants and sight-seeing before you travel.
By researching what you want to see and do before you leave, you eliminate the need to whip out your phone or tablet and search for a restaurant or attraction, Tourian says.
If you're not a fan of planning, at least plan to depend on the concierge at your hotel for recommendations once you arrive.
By Kathryn Tuggle