Too much time spent checking social media whilst on holiday could result in arguments and even complete relationship breakdowns for couples this summer, a new survey has revealed.

The online survey of over 1000 married individuals* was commissioned by London-based family law firm Brookman last month and revealed that whilst many expected their partner to take work calls or emails whilst on holiday, their biggest frustration came from their partners often constant use of social media.

Although over half of respondents said their partner had sent an email or made a work-related phone call during a holiday and over a third said their partner often takes a laptop or phone with them on holiday, almost 80% felt that their partner had actually had a good work-life balance.

However, when it came to their use of social media whilst on holiday, the results showed a very different story. Over 60% said their partner checked social media at least once a day whilst on holiday, a quarter said that their partner checked emails or social media several times a day, with a further 2.6% stating ‘10x + a day’ and 6.8% saying ‘all the time’. Over a quarter of participants said they felt frustrated or angry that their partner wasn’t engaged, or seemed ‘distracted’ from the family whilst on holiday.

The problem is intensified if couples are camping.  As campers know only too well, there is nothing like putting up a new tent to test even the strongest relationship – but juggling a tent and a smartphone are not always compatible.  One camper who wished to remain anonymous admitted:

“If I get a message on Facebook, and I’m in the middle of putting up the tent, I do stop to check the message.  I do it without thinking, but it winds my other half up no end.”

It is estimated that the average Internet user is now on social media and messaging services for over 2 hours per day and the issue of being ‘physically present’, but ‘emotionally distant’ is a growing problem for couples.  In fact, technology addiction has been claimed to be as damaging as other addictions that have traditionally been considered as severely detrimental to a relationship, such as alcoholism and drug addictions. More alarmingly, excessive use of social media is now being used as grounds for divorce.

Brookman commissioned the survey to explore this area further after noticing a rise in the number of people who were including excessive use of technology in their divorce petition statements. Senior Partner, Henry Brookman, says,

‘Addiction to technology is a growing problem for couples, as people spend more time in ‘virtual relationships’ with friends, followers and even complete strangers. 

Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in the number of people who consider this problem to be a contributing factor to their marriage breakdown. Often, by the time they turn to us, the problem has spiralled into an irreconcilable state, and divorce has become the only feasible option’.

Camping holidays used to be immune to this type of interruption, as couples were forced to take a break and get back to nature, however, smartphones and easy availability of electric hook ups has changed that.  Mark Baker, web designer explains:

“I guess we are more glampers than campers anyway.  We have a brand new Taiga 600 airbeam, a full height bed and my wife takes straighteners and her hair dryer.

“If one of my clients gets a problem while I’m away, we just fix it.  We take two laptops, two tablets and our mi-fi tab, and my wife (an Editor) has spent a full day working in the tent before now.  I suppose we should worry at the lack of disconnect, but as we are the same at home, it works for us!”  

However, for couples where tech is causing problems, relatively simple solutions can go a long way towards building bridges.

Where possible, don’t take your phone with you when going out for day trips or even for just a short walk across the beach – leave it in the locked boot of your car. You’ll not miss anything for a couple of hours and your partner will value the opportunity to talk and have your full attention. Take a camera with you for snapping those happy memories.

If, however, you only have a phone camera, put your phone on Flight Mode for short periods so that you can use the usual phone functions, but without the risk of distraction from endless social media updates.

Finally, if you really do have to check social media and work emails, make sure you do so for only a minute or two and no more than twice a day (once in the morning and once in the evening). Most things don’t need an immediate reply, so don’t give yourself time to get caught up in unnecessary conversations – camping is supposed to be relaxing.  Enjoy the break – you’re back to work soon enough!