Did your smartphone ruin your summer break?

How many of you have just returned from a summer break to a full email inbox, and how many of you kept on top of your emails while away?

Perhaps a more pressing question is who is the more relaxed: the person who endured a tough first day back in the office going through thousands of unread messages, or the person who never really switched off from their day job, even when lying on a beach...

Indeed, holidays are not really the same as they used to be. Now that so many of us are connected all of the time, it is increasingly difficult to switch off. "Oh good, this beach bar has Wi-Fi," you think -- and the next thing you know you are running through your emails, reading the latest news headlines, "checking in" on Facebook or posting a picture of yourself in said beach bar with lurid cocktail in hand. Now that data roaming costs have come down and 3G and 4G networks are increasingly available, this sort of behaviour can also be found in the most out-of-the-way corners of the European Union.

Rather than looking at beautiful scenery or even paying attention to where they are going, smartphone users (aka people) seem so engrossed by whatever is on that small screen they remain oblivious of their surroundings. The advent of the "selfie stick" has brought yet another obstacle to navigate as we attempt to walk round a local beauty spot without losing an eye or being poked in the ear.

There are certainly advantages to being connected while away from the office. I was one of those people who came back to a neat and tidy email inbox, rather than the 2,000-plus messages that used to await me in the pre-smartphone era. Indeed, for freelancers and the self-employed, smartphones and tablets mean they can actually take a holiday without fear of losing that important piece or work or contract that may come their way.

What we don't know yet is the impact that this constant connectivity will have on our future wellbeing because of our inability to ever completely switch off. A recent U.S. survey by the Pew Research Centre also suggests that boundaries are shifting on when it is considered rude to engage with the small screen in public.

Indeed, the survey found that while 82 per cent of American adults say that using mobile had an adverse impact on conversation in social gatherings, 89 per cent said they used their phones during their most recent get togethers. This indicates that we are often annoyed by other people's usage, even though we are doing the same thing ourselves.

What is for sure, there is no going back to the old days. If anything, it's likely to get worse. Perhaps what we need now are holiday packages that promise "true" getaways from the selfie stick, or social gatherings than force you to leave your smartphone at the door.--Anne