About a week ago, I sat in the lodge of a campground steeped high in the Rocky Mountains, contemplating what I would write, wondering if those words would mean anything to me once I returned home.
Earlier that same week I had made the 18-hour trip by vehicle with several close friends of mine with the goal of gaining some time away from the colorful distractions of normal life.
Estes Park, Colo., is a beautiful place, the monolithic snow caps that surround the small town seemingly mystical in the way they promote a sense of good health and community.
There was only one rule that dictated how my friends and I would spend the week: Any electronic use must be confined to the bedrooms of the cabin, and not in the living area, where it was intended that we would use the space instead for discussion and overall bonding; for sharing stories and reveling not in digital light but in the glow of the fireplace.
I realize placing a ban on electronic use in today’s world is painting with a broad, dangerous brush. But like all habits, it was one that became easier throughout the week the more it was enacted. After even a few days, you begin to lose that phantom urge that demands you check your phone for texts and emails– your phone, after all, being out of reach in the next room, and you being too lazy to venture next door to get it.
Not to say that it was easy to separate from my beloved and usually constant wifi access. Contrarily, it was about as difficult as that time I tried to learn to stop completely biting my nails (another nasty habit I indulge in more than I should). But growing up in the turn of the century has led me to undoubtedly believe flagrant technology use is the bane of my generation. And that I’m among the worst of offenders, certainly.
What my spring break did was reveal to me two pretty telling things about my relationship with technology: One, that I’m more hopelessly addicted to it than I should like to think; and two, that it can actually be quite easy to break the digital habit, if only I surround myself with the right types of distractions.
In my case, the second instance corrected the first. The Colorado scenery was the antidote to a whole lot of what ailed me, not only my damaging technological habits but any increasingly lethargic attitudes toward life in general. To take in the views, the cloudless skies, the countless pines as they rolled down the backs of the mountains — these things could cure anyone from just about anything, I reckon.
But the cure can be found anywhere. To leave the phone at home for an hour or two and to take a walk outside where everything’s natural and potentially even unsafe, but where it’s cleansing and holistic all on its own terms. Or to gather ‘round a deck of cards with lifelong friends and shoot the breeze about what life used to be like before technology’s invasive grip on our lives.
I’m aware that for every pro-technology piece out there there’s an equal and opposite case like the one I’m making now. I just think it’s good to be reminded every now and again. To be reminded that there’s a whole, real life outside of our screens, the world being a beautiful and meaningful place even without, and perhaps especially without, an internet connection.
This reminder may be old news, but it’s a reminder I must keep telling myself as much as anyone else.