Last month during spring break, I had the wonderful opportunity to explore Colombia’s jungles and Belize’s reefs. The chance to discover endangered forests, ascend sacred ruins, and dive with sharks was life-altering. Travel is often transformational; however, this year I realized how passport has become my alibi. Yes, I book tickets halfway around the world to help me with the simple task of going to the wall, grabbing a chord, and unplugging.
While traveling, I do not use my phone, computer, or social media. I pay close attention to what is in front of me. I hand-write in my journal. I glue ticket stubs into my scrapbook. I slow down. And after two short weeks of technological silence, my ears grow open to songs of the birds and my stomach churns at the buzz of technology. Returning back through customs, I could hear the low hum of the electronics. I felt how the presence of computers made me question what I’m missing, asking me to do more, be more up-to-date, respond more…
More, more, more.
Because technology has this funny way of buzzing, “You aren’t _____ enough.”
Studies show the very presence of a phone next to you can be distracting. It draws our attention away from the present to the information that exists beyond our reach. In this way, technology both informs us and robs us. In the film Screenagers (which Crane recently showed), teenagers reported they use their smartphones to “stay connected and fight boredom.” Ironically, my two weeks away from my phone gave me these same gifts, connecting me with locals and revealing a world that was far from boring.
I am not anti-tech. I believe in technological brilliance. But the best learning requires balance. Sometimes it takes a few journeys around the globe to realize that balance can happen without a passport. Here are some ways I hope to power down and power up right here in the 93108. If you like them, perhaps you’ll join me.
1. Declare a Tech-Free Sabbath. Take a day to completely unplug at home. Unplug your televisions, turn off your phones, shutdown your computers. Forget about emails and texts and take a 24-hour fast from anything that has a screen. See what comes up. What other mediums can grip your attention – nature, gardening, books, or sports? Use actual road and trail maps. Write thank you notes. Collage a vision board. Rest your eyes. Count the stars. Bathe in wonder.
2. Declare an Intentional Tech Day to use tech to the maximum of its wonders. Finally organize your 2001 vacation photos on Shutterfly. Send e-cards to your extended family. Create a music playlist for your next family gathering. Compare the same news story in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and BBC News. Skype a friend abroad. Watch Ted Talks on important social issues such as environmental sustainability, mental health, human rights, or creative genius. Create a music video with your family. The possibilities are endless.
In the six weeks left of school, let’s take some great staycations in our backyards. Who knows? It just might be a jungle out there.
Upper School Learning Specialist