For the first time in history, we can connect with anyone, anywhere, all the time. And that means we’re always on call, which can feel overwhelming. Our Nancy Loo continues her reports on digital detoxing, by introducing us to a young man whose digital lifestyle almost killed him. But who is now helping others find balance.
“Seemed like almost overnight everyone went from, “Hey Levi, stop sleeping with your cellphone, to…of course we all sleep with our cellphones, they’re our alarm clocks.” So last summer, Levi Felix picked up a megaphone, stood on a hay bale, and led scores of adult camera on a four day adventure in the woods of Northern California; no cellphones, no digital cameras, not even clocks.
It was the premier season of “Camp Grounded”, a camp he and his girlfriend founded, where people all over the world, paid to unplug. “Our mantra is really disconnect to reconnect. What are we filling our lives with, with our devices that we can find in the people and the world around us?”
Chicago friends, Lori Mitchell and Gavin Young, participated in the first Camp Grounded, costumes, hula hoops, pie eating contests, and all. Lori says to Gavin, “We would see each other be like you good? You good? Ya!” Lori is a Chicago based flight attendant. Her hours are flexible and she flies for free. But, she started wondering if she was doing things because she wanted to, or if she was being driven by FOMO; which stands for “Fear of Missing Out.”
“One thing I learned at camp is the only reason we have that is because of social media. If it wasn’t constantly in our face; look this is what you missed out on.” Post camp, Lori now challenges her friends to stop Googling answers. Give it ten minutes she says. Thinking of the answer is so much more rewarding. Gavin works for a stock options trading company in Chicago. He says “Camp Grounded” lessons come back to him every time he takes public transportation. “Riding the bus in the morning, you’ll see a row of 5 people that could be talking to each other and they’re all just doing this.
Dr. Niranjan Karnik says some people lover the rush of constant interactions. For others, it’s become a burden, isolating, even addictive. “Some people describe little phantom feelings, that the phone is buzzing, even when it’s not. I think that may indicate you’re a little bit too sensitive to this device. And you need to create some distance.”
Here’s a short list of simple things you can do to begin digital detoxing:
Keep phones out of the bedroom and off the table. Leave the charger at home so you have to conserve battery power. And, make a list of all the things you’d like to accomplish with the time you’lll save.
Many people say they’d give anything to disconnect after hours. But, their employers expect them to be reachable. Dr. Karnik says research shows that leads to less productivity. “So when somebody goes on vacation, it needs to be a true vacation. That’s the purpose. Then they’ll come back refreshed and renewed and actually more productive for their employers.” Some hotels, like Hotel Monaco in Chicago, now offer a black-out option where checking-in means leaving your phones at the front desk. “I never thought we’d be holding on to people’s cellphones,” says Hotel Monaco manager Marco Scherer. Their tranquility suite provides sweeping views of the city. The window seats are a comfortable space to enjoy the peace and quiet. And rooms are filled with calming features like goldfish, board games, and yoga mats. “There’s a lot of interest,” says Scherer. “But, I think there’s still a lot of people that are worried about leaving their phone at the front desk.” All of our experts say we love our cellphones because they’re so useful.
But, Dr. Karnik says, it’s all about the balance. “They should control the technology. The technology shouldn’t control us.” Gavin says if you’re thinking of digital detoxing, go out for dinner with friends and leave the phones at home. He calls it, “good practice.” “And if it’s comfortable maybe that person has a pretty good balance in their life on the role technology plays. And if it’s uncomfortable- maybe they might want to take a closer look at that.”
A National Day of Unplugging is coming up March 7th and 8th from sundown to sundown. The thinking is; if you can unplug for 24 hours, imagine the possibilities.
If you do decide to unplug, make sure you let your family and friends know so they don’t worry when they can’t reach you. You can find and share links to both of our digital detox stories at WGNTV.com/coverstory. The links below will get you to the Camp Grounded website and to a printable unplugging guide that is filled with step by step instructions on taking digital vacations.
Producer Pam Grimes, and Photojournalists Steve Scheuer and Mike D’Angelo, contributed to this report.