Why Camp Makes You Feel Connected To Each Other

Feeling connected to the people in our lives brings a feeling of personal well being and happiness.  Social connection is important not only for psychological well-being, but also improves physical health.  But with today’s technology, social connection has taken on a whole new meaning.  Technology has opened our world of social connections far beyond our family and circle of friends.  We can text, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and Skype just about anyone.  We can share our lives for all to see, and learn about the lives of anyone willing to put the information out there.  But does this increase in numbers bring greater happiness and well being, or somehow create a false sense of connection and make us feel more isolated and lonely?  Sherry Turkle, professor of Science, Technology and Society at MIT, and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, studies how technology is shaping our modern relationships.  Turkle speaks of the psychological power the devises we use have, and how they are changing what we do and who we are.  “There are no limits to the places and circumstances we will take out our phones and start texting.  We are texting during meetings, meal times, while driving, shopping, and sadly while socializing.  Nobody is paying attention to each other anymore, and we may be setting ourselves up for trouble.  We are hiding from each other even when we are in the same room”.
Turkle believes that adolescents need to develop face to face interactions and have real conversations, conversations that cannot be controlled by editing or deleting, but real conversations that have real outcomes.  Yes, they may be messy and full of mistakes, but there is so much to learn from them.  Jay Baer, social media and content strategist, and speaker and co-author of The NOW Revolution, talks about how social media forces upon us a feeling of intimacy and closeness that doesn’t actually exist.  “Technology and our use of it isn’t – as we’ve all hoped – bringing us closer together.  In fact, it may be driving us farther apart, as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them”.
Turkle and Baer’s views made me think how important overnight camp is, now more than ever.  Camp is all about making connections, real face to face connections that require listening and focus, and bring us close to one another in a way technology cannot possibly do.  At camp, we learn about each other through playing and engaging in different camp activities and events.  We get to interact face to face and respond in the moment.  These real connections allow us to learn about others as well as ourselves.  At camp, our activities are not interrupted by having to post comments about what we are doing or how we feel about it, we are in the moment. We do not have to remove ourselves from one another.  At camp, we replace postings and online sharing with real communications. “Children who do not learn real interactions, which often have flaws and imperfections, will come to know a world where perfect, shiny screens give them a false sense of intimacy without risk”, says Turkle.  “They need to think independently of a device.  They need to be able to explore their imagination”.
Technology can of course be helpful and make our lives easier in so many ways, but can never replace the value of having a face to face conversation and spending time with friends and really listening and sharing.  It’s the only way to form and experience real connections. Social media is a great way to stay in touch but if you want to form a true connection, take some time to unplug and tune in.