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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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