Balancing Act: Smartphones can crimp vacations, relationships

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On vacation, Annabel Fernandez watched incredulously as her husband splashed in the pool of a beachfront resort with their twin daughters. Between the giggling and water play, she saw him glancing at his iPhone on the pool's ledge. The night before, she had caught him checking email on his smartphone under the table at dinner.

"I started realizing it was an addiction," she said. "I felt like we were losing him to a screen."

As the number of smartphone users rises, so does the level of anxiety and friction around using them. Downsizing and economic realities have left workers with a real fear of what might happen if they are out of touch too long. The fear has turned into a compulsion that has workers tethered to their mobile phones -- even when they're supposed to be off the clock.

But for the spouse, partner, friend or travel companion of a smartphone addict, the fear can ruin a vacation, a night out or, worse, a relationship.

"When you're on the phone, you're ignoring the person you are traveling with; that creates resentment," said Kimberly Young, a psychologist and director of Center for Internet Addiction Recovery.

While smartphone addiction has been difficult to track, in a survey by mobile-services provider iPass, 91 percent of mobile users said they use their free time, both day and night, to check their smartphones. Among those, almost 30 percent check their smartphones three to five times an hour, and 20 percent check them five to 10 times an hour.

Travel companions say the problem often comes to a head on vacation or during leisure activity when the goal is to reconnect and their partner sends the message that business is a priority.

Miami marketing strategist Michelle Villalobos says the only way to travel with a smartphone addict is to establish the rules upfront, before the loaded minivan leaves the driveway.

Making the rules together and negotiating is key.


Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC;


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