Will a Trip to Camp Break a Tech Addiction?

Check out a fascinating piece by Matt Haber over at the New York Times. In “A Trip to Camp to Break a Tech Addiction,” Haber chronicles his recent trip to Camp Grounded, a camp specifically envisioned to help people break their addictions to technology and rediscover the joys of embodied, relational living. Camp Grounded is the creation of Digital Detox, “an Oakland-based group dedicated to teaching technology-addled (or technology-addicted) people to, in the words of its literature, ‘disconnect to reconnect.'”

As someone who works closely with a mostly-offline retreat center in the Texas Hill Country, I applaud the efforts of Digital Detox. But, I have to wonder if a few days of disconnected camping will actually help tech addicts find new ways of living. Will they intentionally develop new patterns of life that help them to use technology without being used by it? Will they find the ongoing relational support to live wisely with technology? Will they find a rationale for living upstream? Would the camp experience be more successful if it helped people learn to make choices about technology, to use it and then put it away according to a new vision for healthy living?

I would propose that breaking a tech addiction requires more than a weekend of roughing it and stargazing. It requires a new vision for life, a new community of like-minded souls, and new focal practices that enrich life while putting technology in its proper place. Such vision, community, and practices would help people to see how technology can even be part of what enriches life rather than always having to be that which diminishes it.

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  • Cavin T. Harper


    You’re absolutely right. I love the heart of Digital Detox to break a dangerous addiction to today’s technology. There are so many technological traps we often ignore and never stop to think about. I think a more long-term effective approach would mean engaging in inter-generational dialogue and discipleship in which we learn how to use technology wisely to the glory of God, and immerse ourselves in God’s Word and the the community of faith, beginning with healthy family relationships. Unless we get Jesus’ teaching that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance his possessions” (including tech toys), we will seek happiness and meaning in all the wrong places. This is something parents and grandparents have got to understand and intentionally make the home the discipleship center it should be.

  • The community of like-minded souls is essential. Historically, the church has done a good job of being that community.

  • Bex Lewis

    “Such vision, community, and practices would help people to see how
    technology can even be part of what enriches life rather than always
    having to be that which diminishes it.” Amen!

  • Bex Lewis

    I’m not sure that many people are truly “addicted” to technology, but the tools have become embedded in our lives. Some ways of using it are healthy, and some aren’t. We can make choices about how we use it – at the end of the day most of the modern digital technology tools are about communicating/relationship. God is a communicating God, so how do we use those tools for his glory. #digidisciple

  • Cavin T. Harper

    You’re absolutely right about the “choices” we must make concerning the use of technology and that as image-bearers of our Creator, communication is about relationship and using those tools for those purposes for His glory. Right on!

    However, if I understand addiction to mean being dependent upon something and suffering adverse affects when taken away, then I have to say tech addiction is real and prevalent. I work a lot with teens and grade school kids. While technology is certainly “embedded” in their lives, for a great many it is so embedded that they cannot live without it. The research evidence is plentiful. We dare not ignore this fact and put our heads in the sand, wouldn’t you agree?

  • Fascinating. My soul longs for such a retreat.