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 Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa 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.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid