Smartphone usage and family vacation experiences

Xi Yu, Purdue University


Family vacation has been recognized as an intentional means to improve family interaction, family cohesion, and family relationship. Because the prevalence of smartphone usage shapes the way the family members engage with each other and the world around them (Molz, 2012), it has gradually changed their vacation behaviors and motivations. In this regard, the present study presents three research objectives; first, how smartphones influence family members’ interactions with each other during vacations; second, how smartphones influence family members’ interactions with the destinations; third, how smartphones influence the way family members recall their vacation experiences. To investigate these objectives, phenomenological research methods were used to collect and analyze the research data. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 37 people who used smartphones and took a family vacation within the last two years. This study identified the smartphone as a consensus builder, retreat from togetherness, interaction generator, and interaction inhibitor that simultaneously influences the way individuals unite the family and obtain individuality. It also suggested paradoxical interactions with destinations through smartphone usage that allowed family members to be adventurous, spontaneous, and gain prolonged gratification while exploring the destinations without any sense of adventure, serendipity, or insignificant gratification. Meanwhile, smartphone use influenced the way family members recalled vacation experiences with the outside world and the families. First, it influenced the formation and retention of family vacation memories through retrieval of pictures taken with smartphones, many of which captured more mundane moments. Second, it resulted in memory preoccupation caused by preoccupation with the smartphone; third, it led to recall of memories by sharing them on the smartphone. These three findings indicate that smartphone-driven changes in interactions among individuals, families, destinations and the outside world also influence the way family members interact with each other, their destinations, and their memories. The findings of this thesis support theoretical implications for family vacation and smartphone usage research and provide practical implications for families and the field of tourism and marketing.




Miao, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Management|Information Technology|Individual & family studies

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