The Beauty of (Almost) Going Tech-Free

2013 weekend at my camp has come to an end, and our policy has allowed 130 students and faculty present to take themselves “off the grid”: No computers, no cell phones, no iPads.

The craziest part?  No one seems to miss their technology.  

***Full disclosure:  Many faculty are using computers and iPads for a limited time each day.  Our email from work at home calls out to us, but only for an hour a day or so.  The students are without all their “gear”.  They had to leave it at home.***

While sitting at lunch yesterday, one student explained to me how weird it was that someone wasn’t pulling out a cell phone every few minutes to text.  She said that she didn’t miss seeing that at all.

Don’t get me wrong.  The internet is incredible, and so is technology.  After all, a few hours after I type this post, thousands of people will read it.  How cool is that??  Back in the day, I would write this in a journal with pen and paper and keep it to myself (or not write at all as the case was).

Yet the internet (and other technology) has its drawbacks.  Research has shown the following:

  • People are spending over 30 percent of their leisure time online (this does NOT include their work day).  This also does not include cell phones and other devices; just internet.
  • A survey by the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation found that kids are spending an average of 7.5 hours a day using electronic media, which includes TV, the internet, video games, and mobile devices.  That’s over 53 hours a week…more than some of their parents work!
  • Probably not a surprise, but children who use technology heavily tend to have lower grades in school than light users.
  • 75% of all 12 to 17 year olds own cell phones.  Most of them use it for texting, not talking.  Half of them send 50 or more texts per day; 1 in 3 send over 100.  3000 texts a month?  Wow.

The scary part?  The texting and web use is not in lieu of TV watching.  Nielsen Company’s research shows that TV viewing has gone steady or even increased as internet use has gone up.

We are addicted to our media.

In all fairness, many people spend time on the internet reading (like you right now!).  But (and I really hate saying this) the reading is different.  Blogs beg us to skim and scroll and move on rather quickly (the average stay on my blog is 2.5 minutes, which is considered kind of good), whereas books will always be better for us to read.  Books require calm and focused concentration; not clicking and short-attention-span surfing.

I walked campus today with my colleagues and my students and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the crisp weather.  We played at the pond and sat on the huge grass hill overlooking the mountains.  No one’s head was down looking at a screen.  We stopped emailing, texting, surfing, and posting…and we were just fine.

The digital revolution has put our devices in control of our lives….but not this summer.


  1. Starting tomorrow, I’m going facebook-free for a month. It’s my biggest time drain and I want to experience my summer festival without the addiction of facebook. I might even consider leaving my iphone behind when I go places!

  2. Tony! Glad your camp is going well and that no one is missing their tech. It would be nice if all the tech was helping people be more reliable, better drivers, smarter, kinder, etc. Obviously, none of this is happening, however. At a coffee shop last weekend, I watched a man, off and on, have a 30 min conversation with his partner and child. He never once, that I saw, looked at either of them. Candy Crush on the phone got the better part of his attentions.
    cj recently posted…Smelling the RosesMy Profile

    • CJ…That story made me sad :(

      • Ditto – very, very sad. I can’t tell you the number of people we’ll see when we (occasionally) go out to eat who sit there looking at their phones. Hubby and I still have the “old fashioned” flip phones. I am refusing to get a Smart Phone for this exact same reason. I don’t WANT to let technology impose/take over my life! There are too many other things I enjoy (TV NOT being one of them!) doing and people who I enjoy spending my time with. Unfortunately, some of those folks I enjoy spending time with can’t rip themselves away from their technology for an hour or so visit. :-(

  3. “The digital revolution has put our devices in control of our lives…” Unfortunately, this is becoming more true. My 12-yr. old daughter even notices this in her after school program. Instead of studying or talking to one another, the kids are playing with their electronic devices. She says its boring to go there because that’s all they do. Glad you are teaching kids to unplug at your camp. They (an we adults as well) need to do it more often.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted…Investing Made Easy (Part III) – Where Should I Put My Money?My Profile

  4. I am so happy to hear about your campers, Tony! Those statistics you quote are so disturbing. I tutor struggling readers and writers, and I can tell you that I might be put out of business if parents modeled reading, encouraged reading, and planned time for reading every day. Many of my students come in and tell me they play video games, but when I ask them what they’re reading, they can’t tell me. Why, because they aren’t reading at home. They are playing video games and texting their friends every day but not reading every day? What is wrong with that picture?
    Tammy R recently posted…Smelling the RosesMy Profile

  5. The nose in the cell phone.. constantly texting, is a relationship killer.

    There’s nothing like being in the middle of a conversation and having the other person whip out their phone and start texting. Really?!!

    I had an experience where a realtor had brought a buyer to look at one of our houses. She asked me a question, and when I started answering, she started texting.

    I stopped talking.

    She never looked up, so I left her and went to find the buyer who was looking in another room.

    In this particular case, I’d call the realtors’ texting a business opportunity killer.

    So happy Tony, that you and your wife are enjoying this beautiful summer.

    ~ darlene :)
    Darlene with BlogBoldly recently posted…You Are an “Expert” to SomeoneMy Profile

  6. Technology has both freed and imprisoned me. Because I can be reached anywhere, I do have the luxury to step out to run errands or attend my daughter’s school recital during the workday. At the same time, I am ALWAYS available. It’s definitely a catch-22. I love that you banned technology at your camp and when I go on vacation in the next couple of weeks, I can’t wait to be technology-free! :)
    Shannon @ The Heavy Purse recently posted…Enter the Summer Lovin’ GiveawayMy Profile

  7. “our policy has *allowed*” Love this.

  8. It’s amazing that in just a few years kids have gone from running and playing outside with friends to simply texting all day on their phones. The world has completely and forever changed in just a blink of an eye.

    I was talking to this guy I knew awhile back — he was a school bus driver. I told him I could never handle that kind of job . . . all those rowdy kids screaming and jumping around in their seats.

    Know what he said?

    It’s the easiest job in the world. All the kids just sit there with their heads down and their noses in their smartphones. Not one of them ever acts up.

    Am I the only one that finds that so horribly wrong?
    Trevor recently posted…6 Self-Help Mistakes That Hold People Back (Which Ones Are YOU Making?)My Profile


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