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A Technical Approach to Spring Cleaning

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Take A Screen Time Break

Wed, 03/03/2021 - 09:00

Girls talking at camp without cell phones

Every summer, Alpengirls from across the country assemble in campgrounds, on mountain trails, on riverbanks, and in wild places across the West to engage in adventures of mind, body, and spirit - and they do it without their cell phones! They aren’t Tweeting or posting to Facebook, or sharing on Snapchat or Instagram - they are telling stories around a campfire; they are viewing sunsets over mountains, lakes, and oceans; they are getting to know one another as they climb a trail or paddle a raft; they are sharing the triumph of overcoming challenges together. They are experiencing unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime moments with their their eyes wide open and their faces turned toward the world around them. 

In honor of every young adventuress who decides to become an Alpengirl and take a break from her phone, tablet, or computer, we invite you to participate in a different kind of spring cleaning in 2021: take a few steps away (literally and figuratively) from your device, and enjoy and breath of fresh air and a refreshed perspective.

The challenge of balance

Sleepaway girls camp technology free

We truly live in the Information Age - at our fingertips, information and stimulation are always readily available. The benefit of instantaneous access to resources that inform us, entertain us, inspire us, and educate us, is that that we may use these resources for increased productivity and problem solving, not to mention connection with family, friends and community.  

However, the ubiquitous presence and use of mobile devices, with their illusion of constant connection, also produces an equally constant stress response in our minds and bodies. The pressure to connect, post, update, and receive positive feedback keeps us in a constant state of "fight or flight" (also known as hyperarousal), and prevents us from feeling relaxed, safe, and restful. Over-use of technology is adversely affecting health in other ways as well: depression, inactivity, eye strain, and blurred vision1; social anxiety and stress2; intermittent neck pain; insomnia and poor sleep quality3; and increased aggression4 and reduced attention span are all proven effects of long term, poorly managed interaction with screen devices. 

Between the positive and negative influences of the today's technology, the challenge is to find a personal balance, thereby engaging with our devices in a beneficial manner, rather than letting our habits become detrimental to our mental, physical and emotional health.

Take note of your current habits

Group talk at summer girls camp

Engaging in a technology/device cleanse this spring begins with close observation of your current usage habits - even if you  think you are only using your device for "neccessary" or "beneficial" functions, you might be surprised by how much you use computer, tablet, or cell phone for non-essential or detrimental actions. Taking note of your habits will allow you to determine how you can take a break from technology and reduce your overall screen time. This will look different for everyone!

But before you say "My technology habits are the best, I was born with a phone glued to my hand and I plan to keep it that way," remember: in order for our minds to stay fresh, innovative, and creative, we need breaks. Hours of screen time on the computer at work or at school blend into hours looking at the little screens in our palms. Tablets and TVs at home mean more screen time, without much reprieve, especially during the winter months when lack of daylight and colder temps keep us turning to our devices for entertainment. 

A colloquial term has arisen to identify the discomfort that may arise at the thought of losing or being unable to use your mobile device. It is called ‘nomophobia’ [no-mobile-phone phobia].5 You may be a nomophobe if you experience anxiety at the thought of losing your phone, having insufficient battery, or lack of service. If you identify with this description, a short technology cleanse this spring will help you take baby steps away from your device - and if you are attending camp this summer, or have another oppotunity during the summer to turn it off and tuck it away for a few days, it won't be such a challenge.

It’s easy to forget that we can actually be OK without our devices from time to time. We may even be healthier as a result of putting them down. This spring, lets grant ourselves time without computers, social media, emails, and text messages, so that we have opportunity for spontaneity, human connection, and rest.

Suggestions for engaging with your use of media devices and technology

Music and campfires at girls sleep away camp

  1. Try setting specific times in your day that are screen-free. Perhaps during a weekend day, or during lunch. Start by setting aside small periods of time without your phone. Make these achievable intervals and then expand upon them. 
  2. Try turning off all of the audible notifications that draw your attention (and the attention of others) to your device. Instead, check relevant messages and status apps on your phone at digestible (and pre-conceived) intervals throughout the day, and respond accordingly. If you think about it, very few messages truly require your immediate attention or response.Alpengirl summer camp staff technology free
  3. Rather than seeking a sense of connection through your screen, challenge yourself to better the quality of your in-person communication: make eye contact, pay attention, and engage in active listening. When you are catching up with a friend or family, consider how your actions convey respect as you offer them your full attention - are you constantly checking your device? Are you conveying that whatever is happening on the screen is more important than what your loved one is saying? Try to put your phone away in your bag or pocket, or even - gasp - leave it in the car or a different room.
  4. Make mealtimes screen-free times. Practice mindful eating by being fully aware of what you are eating, how it tastes, how your body feels. Be aware of your environment and anyone who might be sharing your meal. Being more present during the moments when you are taking in nutrition and sustenance can have lasting effects on your health. When you’re putting food in your mouth, put the devices away.
  5. Instead of using your phone as a proxy to appear busy, or to occupy yourself while waiting for a friend, instead, observe the space around you - be present in that moment. Just be with yourself, or perhaps strike up a conversation - make a new friend. Sleepaway camp without technology cell phones
  6. Place your phone away from your bed or at least out of immediate reach. Do you really need to have it under your pillow? Many people use their phones as alarm clocks - if so, set a waking alarm, but switch to airplane mode at night and situate your phone away from the bed. (If you're a chronic snoozer, keeping your phone plugged in away from your bed at night is also a great way to get yourself out of bed in the morning). For an even more restful night's sleep, try to disconnect from all devices and power down your screens at least 2 hours before bed to promote healthier sleep cycles3.

Small changes; big happiness

Mobile devices are amazing and provide incredible advantages and convenience to our lives, but they can distract us from truly being present in life, and can distance us from ourselves, our loved ones, and our environment. As a society, we have become less socially conscious - less aware of one another. People are less likely to be connected and to engage in conversation of all kinds, from polite small talk to deep and active listening. But we can change that. When we take a break from our devices, we become participants in our own lives. We see our own habits with clear eyes, so that we may seek balance, become inspired in new ways, and show up fully for the most meaningful aspects of our lives.  

~ By Contributing Writer & Former Alpenguide Kimberley Green

1 see Vision Council re small, bright screens

2 Natural News 

3 Study shows that a 2-hour exposure to light from electronic displays can suppress melatonin by about 22% - Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

4 Centers for Disease Control Study 

5 Psychology Today