What if we unplugged?

January 16, 2020

  • I spend a goodly amount of time fantasizing about crushing my smartphone.

    It’s a love/hate relationship. I’m connected to my family, clients, news, and entertainment around the clock, but I’m also connected to my family, clients, news, and entertainment around the clock. Know what I mean?

    Scientists are still debating the effect screens play on our kid’s super-plastic brains, and guidelines are changing all the time. What we do know is that when we’re on our phones we’re decidedly NOT outside exercising, reading a book, laughing with a friend, playing the guitar, holding someone’s hand.

    Some researchers are now recommending we totally unplug for one day of the week to reduces stress and anxiety as a reset our monkey brains. I wonder if I could do it? Could you? Now, imagine being 14, and constantly bombarded with dopamine-generating messages and images (some good, some not so good). 14-year olds with plastic brains and little impulse control. I’m guessing they aren’t going to unplug themselves, either.

    That’s where camp comes in. I’ve seen the impact of a hard unplug in my kids when they return to me after four weeks of camp: tan, smiling, a little dirty and HAPPY. They’re completely relaxed and in the moment. They’ve made connections with new friends, improved skills in canoeing and tennis as well as sharpened those 21st-century skills like grit, resilience, and initiative. They’ve relinquished the pain of constant connection, “likes,” and comparison to other folks. No wonder they feel and look great.

    Don’t just take my word for it, though. One of the great privileges of being a camp director is receiving the essays that boys write about camp on college applications, back to school reports or senior speeches. Read our friend Grant’s application essay below on why he enjoyed his zero-technology summer last summer.

    By Grant B.

    If was spending the weekend with my family in a place with zero technology, I would do many activities outside in nature. Some of these activities would include hide and seek with my siblings, making a fort in the forest, carving objects out of wood, doing puzzles or board games, exploring nature with my siblings, hiking, fishing, skipping stones or playing cards.

    I would do these activities because I enjoy them. Over this past summer I involved myself in nature more than ever. I went to camp for three weeks in Northern Wisconsin, specifically Sayner, Wisconsin. At Camp Highlands we weren’t allowed any electronics and our cabins didn’t have windows or electricity. So we resorted to a lot of other activities, most of those are included in the previously listed activities. During our free time we would play UNO or Texas Hold’em to pass the time, which I really enjoyed. We also played lots of games at the end of the day, such as capture the flag, buffalo hunt or infection. All of these include a lot of running and tactics, and because of that I also love games of that style. During camp we went on a five day camping trip to Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula. After our long days of hiking we would pass the time by going down to Lake Superior and skipping rocks, getting firewood or just exploring the surrounding nature. Some of the campsites were amazing such as Masse Homestead which we went on the dunes at night and looked at the stars which were very easy to see as there was no light pollution. I also enjoyed hiking as we also had very nice views of the various rock structures that makes Pictured Rocks famous.

    Because of camp I learned how much I really love nature and the various activities that can be done in nature. So I would implement most of those activities to pass the time in a place with zero technology because at the end of the day I enjoy those activities more than being on my phone.

    We agree. Thanks for sharing, Grant!