PJ Embree ’21 reflects on the importance of unplugging from technology and having face-to-face interactions.
I have been to camp every summer of my life since I was six. Starting off as a couple of days, all the way to months at a time. Each time I went back to these camps I had learned something new and carried many stories with me, but the only string of connection that I had with all of them was that I wasn’t allowed to have my phone or any kind of electronic device. At the beginning I didn’t understand why I had to give up my phone. It had become such a large piece of my life that I couldn’t remember what life was like without that constant dinging from a notification. This recurring event happened for 9 summers and I always thought of it as a punishment until today.
Earlier today, the masons were packing up some of the extra wood, and invited a few students to take a quick ride to another campsite to drop it off. Immediately, I jumped at the idea and was already in the back before everyone fully turned their heads. I didn’t really know where we were going, but being as we were in a place surrounded by ever-flowing valleys and acres of exotic flowers I couldn’t imagine that it was going to be an unpleasant experience. Everyone soon got in the truck and we started our journey into the unknown. That familiar dirt road slowly became a victim of memory. Stalky plants blurred across our eyes as various figures were washed away by speed. Little kids playing with each other as their parents tended to their private farms. No screen in sight. It occurred to me as we approached the target destination that this place was simply blissful and it was because they didn’t have or want the imprisoning contract that is technology. They didn’t waste away their mornings and nights scrolling through identical applications or brag about how many episodes they watched that day.
The little boys and girls greeted us with genuine smiles and open arms instead of crowding around an intoxicating screen. They hadn’t taken the bait. What once seemed like a punishment, turned into a realization. My parents used to take my iPod and tell me to go outside when I wasn’t behaving, but here they probably punish their kids by locking them in their rooms as their friends play outside. I used to reminisce on the times I ventured outside as a kid and always thought that it would be a thing of the past and the future would be repetitive controller clicking. But, after seeing how easy it was for the kids to entertain themselves it came to me that having fun wasn’t playing video games in a dark room all day, but it was more than that. I realized that constantly looking down at a phone is like looking away from a movie while watching it. No one would do it, yet we still do it for hours. I made it a goal to cut down the amount of times I whip out my phone when I get a ding.
All those summers I dropped my phone in the plastic bag with a feeling of being lost and unimportant and I would spend my days thinking of the time I would reunite with my phone. Now I miss those days, not because of the actual experience of going to camp, even though it was fun, but because I miss the feeling of not having my phone and finding fun in the middle of nowhere, just like those kids I saw on the ride. It’s not about being connected with people hundreds of miles away from you, but rather than the person across the table.