Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Things I Learned at Jewish Summer Camp: A Break from the Internet is Good for Kids, and Adults



It almost goes without saying that it is good for kids to get offline and go outside, it is exactly what we expect to happen at summer camp. The same can be said for adults. 
The internet at camp is notoriously bad. The geography of camp and the set up of the wireless service makes it impossible to use your phone and the computer at the same time. Plus, the phone service and 3G service was so sporadic it was like living in a Verizon commercial “Can you hear me now?” While that may sound like it is not such a big deal, it does make doing anything online or over the phone very inconvenient. For two weeks my iPhone was reduced to a mere camera, and I could not even post photos to facebook without driving down the hill to the coffee shop.  At first this is frustrating, every summer it takes me a day or two to adjust to life without e-mail or voice mail, I start off feeling disconnected, like I have no idea what is going on outside of camp. How do I know something happened to me if I don’t post it on Facebook? I am well aware of the value of the internet, it is why I write blog to begin with, and yet there is something valuable about cutting the wireless tether.
Most of my social interaction for two weeks was the old fashioned way, face to face. At mealtimes we spoke to the others at our table without distractions, nobody was able to check their messages, or take a call. Cutting that line of connection to the outside world forces you to be fully present with the people you are with in that moment. 
We all need a break from technology sometimes, to put down our electronic devices and to connect with what is within our arms reach, to connect with the people we are with and to open our eyes to our surroundings.