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For families: ‘Digital detox’ vs connecting mindfully

It takes a lot more than “digital sabbaths” to become grounded, but it sounds like the creators of Camp Grounded in northern California get that. I think. As described by writer Matt Haber in the New York Times, the three days were as gluten-free as they were tech-free and packed with activities aimed at human connection, if not so much reflection. “Designed less to be a spiritual journey than a whimsical return to childhood,” writes Haber, camp was also judgment-free, apparently, and enough of a break from everyday routines in and out of digital media to get the some 300 participants thinking more than usual about self-acceptance and being present with others. For some it was apparently more like a gateway to Burning Man than enlightenment, though of course the latter can probably happen in the Black Rock Desert too. It sounds like they had plenty of fun in any case.

Levi Felix, 28, co-founder of the camp and its parent organization Digital Detox, himself disconnected in many ways and traveled internationally for 2.5 years, Haber writes, but came back to help people focus as much on connecting with each other as on disconnecting from technology. This makes sense to me – not disconnecting so much as reconnecting with each other and ourselves (our hearts, moral compasses, inner guidance systems, whatever one wants to call it) in an enduring kind of way. It can really help sometimes to get away and have a radical change of scene to jumpstart that, but we don’t have to go to summer camp to find support, and it might be even more effective to do this with our kids.

A great family practice

Families can help each other eat, work and play as well as connect mindfully every day. It can be a family project, with kids helping parents as much as the other way around – whether on a special trip, during a digital day-off or in everyday life. Intention is key. It takes practice, and making it a conscious effort that everybody signs onto can help each family member find the balance and approach that’s best for him or her. This practice builds a strong, enduring foundation for growing up and living in a networked world. It can start on a family retreat or camping trip, but ideally it doesn’t end with summer vacation.

Haber refers to “social media’s intrusion on relationships,” but when we live mindfully, that’s certainly not a foregone conclusion. It’s actually the other way around: The way we conduct our relationships (and lives) determines how things go in social media. That’s the intrusion, an invasion of kindness. Going for consistency and balance in connecting online and offline with respect for oneself and others covers a whole lot of ground. It can be a great goal for a family’s practice and it will enhance everybody’s safety as well as fun in social media and life. This is a living digital, media and social literacy.

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