digital detox
Society of Simulations

Digital Detox: Disconnect to Reconnect?

Do you feel information overloaded? Do you experience stress? Do you feel like you are addicted to your smartphone, laptop, or the Internet? Get yourself a digital detox!

The first hit on Google when you search for ‘digital detox’ leads to the website of a company called Digital Detox, Disconnect to Reconnect. It organises different types of offline retreats. The most popular seems to be Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults in California to reconnect with yourself.

Their manifesto starts with a clear message: “We live in an extraordinary time in human history. We are more globally connected than ever before, but life in the digital age is far from ideal. The average American spends more than half of their waking life staring at a screen. The negative psychological, social and cultural impact is real. Things need to change. Our ability to stay balanced in this time of exponential technological growth, and create healthy relationships with our digital devices, will determine the future of humanity. Developing a new code of ethics around technologies, creating social etiquette, setting positive cultural norms, and raising awareness around harmful habits while sharing the importance of mindfulness is urgent. This is our opportunity to set the stage for future generations and celebrate our humanity along the way. Together, we’ll redefine what it means to be connected”. 

At Camp Grounded, you will find your inner child through yoga, mindfulness, healthy eating, writing, analogue art, reflection and activities such as archery, Lego, drawing, primitive skills, analog photography, flower crowns, ukulele, stilts walking and spoon carving. The idea is simple, “trade in your computer, cell phone, email, digital cameras, clocks, schedules, work-jargon, networking events and conferences for four days of pure, unadulterated off-the-grid camp fun. Together, we’ll create a community where status updates, job titles, bitcoins and “busyness” models are worth little… and individuality, self-expression, community, friendship, and memories are what matter most”, the company website explains.

No digital technology, networking or work-related talk, no Internet, phones, or screens of any kind. No watches. There are no bosses, there is no stress, no fear, no FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). The promised results: cultivation of mindfulness and awareness, a more balanced life, reflection, perspective, clarity, vision, enhanced creativity, improved sleep, deeper focus, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, stress will decrease and gratitude will increase.

A digital detox can reduce anxiety, stress, depression, reliance on technology, fatigue and information overload. By creating healthy relationships with our devices, developing new positive social standards and etiquette, and changing the way we build and design our digital technologies, Digital Detox promises to shift the course of human history. The camp is popular, in particular among the digital pioneers of the Silicon Valley. The question: to what extent the way technology is designed actually can change with yoga and macramé? Because, when you go back to your computer in the ‘real’ world, don’t you think you will easily fall back into your old patterns?

Eventually we will find a better balance. But in the meantime, while we struggle with the side effects of living in a hyper connected world, we shouldn’t forget that as of today only 49,7% of the world population has access to the Internet. Slightly more than half of the world population is still not online. Offline is not a new luxury, as offline romanticists try to claim. Online is a luxury. Offline is the new luxury problem.

According to Digital Detox, they are a slow-down” not a start-up. But the omnipresent registered trademark symbol, the prominent press logos, and the $ 695 price tag (for a four-day offline retreat that includes sleeping in a bunk bed) suggests otherwise. I’d rather go camping without my laptop this summer. Happy holidays!

Sources: Digital DetoxNRC, Social Media Abyss: Critical Internet Cultures and the Force of Negation (Geert Lovink, 2016), Internet World Stats. Image: Cowodo Blog

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