“We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” — Marshall McLuhan
Consumer technology is evolving and adapting so rapidly we really have no idea what kind of impact it is having on our bodies and souls. Of course we can speculate, but the truth is we exist in a giant experiment whose final analysis will not be complete for many years. We are guinea pigs with iPhones strapped to our furry little bellies. Lab rats running running on Fitbit wheels.
Taking a break from tech is a great way to notice how the digital world is impacting you, but this can be very difficult to do on your own. It's much better to “digitally detox” with a bunch of other like-minded people, in a beautiful place run by people who are there to support you through your withdrawal. Camp Grounded was designed for just this purpose. Based on a nostalgic summer camp model that replaces social media, texting, emailing and endless Googling with games, appreciation for trees, hugs, live music, and other “real world” activities. To attend campers must agree to give up many of their creature comforts, both technological and otherwise.
This includes (but is not limited to) smartphones, laptops, wearables, watches, and clocks. Campers give up their names and use nicknames instead. They give up their comfy beds and sleep in bunks with 10 other campers to a room. They don't have to give up showering, but many enjoy doing so for the weekend. Campers give up talking about their jobs and reciting their slick networking spiels and instead have their personalities laid bare before their fellow campers. They give up seriousness for silliness. They give up sensible khaki pants for wacky patterned leggings or goofy shorts. They give up drugs and alcohol for hug-induced oxytocin highs. They give up fancy foodie restaurants and instead eat family-style with their fellow campers.
They give up Googling for googly eyes. They give up irony for enthusiasm. Work for play. Bitterness for childlike joy. They give up “fear of missing out” for accepting that they're right where they should be. They give up clocks and schedules for tuning into their own bodies and physical signals. Instead of emails they send notes written on old typewriters. Instead of counting “likes” on screens, campers make eye contact and try to stay present. They give up sleep, Netflix, the illusion of control, actual control and just about every other thing that made them feel safe in their regular world. They cut their own safety nets and use the shreds to make wings in the craft barn.
Camp Grounded gleefullyturns everything we have come to expect from our daily lives on its head. For me it was like the most joyful episode of the Twilight Zone you could ever spent four days trapped in. Can people really be this nice or did they somehow hire actors? Do the counsellors really care that much or do they have some kind of daily hug quota? Can a silly song or game really change the mood of 300 grumpy adults or are the leaders actually witches? Is there someway I can feel this open hearted back in the “real world?”
Camp Grounded challenged, amazed, exhausted, and confounded me. It showed me my best self and cheered me onward. It showed me my worst self and gave me a hug and a second chance. I plan on going back and also bringing a little bit of camp spirit into my everyday life. I also plan to ditch my device on a regular basis and be in the “real world” world sans tech. Digital detoxing is imperative for all moody piñatas and if I had my way summer camp would, too. Clap twice if you agree.