Gadget envy, peeping techs among new norms for connected travelers

June 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM ET

If you've been irritated by airplane seatmates sneaking peeks at your laptop screen or if you've ignored instructions to power off your smartphone before takeoff, you are not alone.

According to results of a survey examining how travelers interact with technology, nearly half of all respondents admitted compromising personal comfort and hygiene in pursuit of an outlet and 30 percent think the need to power off devices when flying is a myth.

Conducted by research firm TNS on behalf of Intel, results released Wednesday indicate 44 percent of U.S. travelers feel anxious about leaving home without their mobile computing devices and more than three-quarters said losing a device on the road is more stressful than losing a wedding ring.

“People just don’t travel the way they used to,” saidMike Fard, global messaging strategist at Intel. “In the past, people would shut down daily life and get away. Now people are so connected on social networks that they feel they need to always have these devices with them.”

The survey found people will go to great lengths to power the devices they take with them. People suffering what the study calls “outlet outrage” reported sitting on floors (37 percent), searching public bathrooms in order to be near outlets (15 percent) and choosing a restaurant or coffeehouse based on the availability of access to power (33 percent).

“We’ve heard of people resorting to flirting in order to get someone to give up an outlet and unplugging devices at airports in order to plug in their own,” said Fard. “People will also not pack things they normally pack, such as a hairdryer or an extra pair of shoes, to make sure they can have their devices with them when they travel.”

Many travelers worry about lost or stolen devices, and 46 percent are frustrated by "peeping techs," or fellow travelers who snoop -- that figure jumps to 62 percent among young adults.

Despite being paranoid about safety, the survey found that about a quarter of travelers don’t take basic security precautions with their gadgets when traveling and will enter credit card information in public and use unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

The need to stay connected extends to the sky. Results show 33 percent of travelers don't think they need to turn devices off when flying, and 13 percent of men said they have ignored instructions to do so -- many said a flight attendant had to personally instruct them to power down after being caught ignoring general announcements.

As to what’s behind the nervousness surrounding technology, Fard said it’s not as negative as it may seem. “It’s really the result of the empowerment people feel with their devices," he said. "Things like limited battery life on devices and having to worry about device security just creates a certain level of anxiety.”

Find more by Harriet Baskas on StuckatTheAirport.com and follow her on Twitter. 

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