News / Science & Technology

Bay Area Techies Unplug at 'Digital Detox' Camp

Signs on a giant Redwood tree alongside the entry road prepare arriving campers for their tech-free experience at Camp Grounded in Navarro, California, June 20, 2014.
Signs on a giant Redwood tree alongside the entry road prepare arriving campers for their tech-free experience at Camp Grounded in Navarro, California, June 20, 2014.
Reuters

Tired of the social media treadmill and hoping to unplug for a couple days? Consider this fast-growing summer camp three hours outside of San Francisco, where the first ritual involves handing over your personal electronics to volunteers in white lab coats.

Camp Grounded, now in its second year, offers hyper-connected attendees a brief respite from the incessant noise of Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of other media relentlessly battling for their attention.

The rules of this “digital detox” camp are clear: No work talk, no alcohol, no first names or discussion of ages, and most importantly, no phones, computers, tablets or watches.

Co-founder Levi Felix, who goes by the nickname “Fidget Wigglesworth,” has stressed it is not just an experience for tech workers, although current and former Facebook, Google and Microsoft employees were represented. This year, campers ranged from hipster college grads to recent retirees, he said in an interview with Reuters at the Navarro, California camp.

The project has gained rapid popularity, reflecting a growing need to unwind from the stresses associated with the Bay Area's tech boom. From just one weekend in the summer of 2013, this year's has grown to three consecutive weekends with several hundred people attending each session.

To be sure, the experience is limited to those who can afford it - it costs $570 for camping, meals and activities.

“I don't remember the last time I went for four days without checking a notification,” said Facebook designer Connie Yang, who tried out Camp Grounded this month.

Yang, who described the experience as “powerful,” said she intends to check her phone far less frequently. She may even experiment with incorporating new product ideas into the Facebook experience to help people “scale back.”

A camper smiles as a staffer announces her camp nickname at Camp Grounded in the Navarro, California, June 20, 2014.
A camper smiles as a staffer announces her camp nickname at Camp Grounded in the Navarro, California, June 20, 2014.

In recent years, the unplugging movement has been gathering steam, although it has been criticized by the press for stirring “postmodern techno-anxiety” and failing to recognize the positive impacts of technology. Each March, thousands of people unplug from their devices for 24 hours, as part of an event organized by nonprofit organization Reboot.

Brian Solis, a principal analyst for Altimeter Group specializing in digital trends, expects that experiences like Camp Grounded will become more commonplace.

“If these technologies don't have your attention, they can't scale,” he said, describing the camp as a potential antidote.

Solis said it's unlikely that tech companies will tinker with products to make them any less habit-forming. But he predicts that consumers will increasingly crave experiences that help them “reset” for a more balanced lifestyle.

David Stewart, founder of SocialStudio, a company making social media applications, said it can be a challenge for developers to strike a balance between engaging users and spamming them with notifications.

The former vice president of product management at Microsoft-owned Yammer said he was not surprised that the digital detox camp was teeming with techies. Stewart himself attended Camp Grounded in early June.

“People designing addictive products are the most aware of the occasional human need to be free from them,” he said.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More