Years ago, one of my teachers assigned our class to take a Sabbath from technology for a day and disconnect for a full 24 hours. Needless to say, my class flipped their pancakes. Personally, I was totally fine with putting down my phone for a day. I realize I have a problem with tech addiction, and I love a good challenge.
Acceptance is the first step. I’m ready to make a change.
Until my professor’s assignment, I was unaware that there was even such a thing as a “digital sabbath.” Apparently, a total disconnect from the web is something people look for in a relaxing vacation. “The Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines offers a digital detox package where travelers exchange their smartphones for a guidebook explaining how to function without technology and a life coach to help them through it” (Mashable), which seems pretty ridiculous to me.
We have to have a life coach AND a guidebook to learn how to turn off our phones and appreciate scenery? Honestly, just give me a few beers, say “Beth, here’s your phone,” and I’ll lose that thing for weeks and save some cash and the life coach’s time.
Technology has revolutionized human connection and interaction and blah, blah, blah–but it’s made beauty arbitrary. We can easily search “pretty beach” and get millions of pictures that claim to be “pretty”. When we see beauty in person, sure we appreciate it–then try to take the #prettiest picture on Instagram and send Snapchats to all our friends. Hell, I’m guilty of it myself. It’s ridiculous that we have to pay for someone to take away our phones and tell us how to deal, but at least someone is taking advantage of our addiction.
Studies have shown that being in nature is one of the healthiest forms of restoration and relaxation. A disconnected vacation in a scenic location could result in reduced stress, an increased sense of calm, better sleep and a sense of freedom. Sounds great, right? But here’s the most bogus thing about those studies: a considerable amount of their data came from subjects looking at still or moving images, photographs and videos, rather than actually going outdoors.
So in a study conducted to prove a disconnect from technology is beneficial for our mental and physical health, technology was used on the test subjects. Cool.
How does this prove nature’s full benefits? Sure, I’m not surprised at the results, and I agree with them, but looking at a picture of some trees doesn’t have nearly the same effect as going out and experiencing the forest. We can look at a picture online easily, but that’s it; we just see it. When we’re in the woods or on the beach, smells, sounds, and textures add to our experience and (unless you’re on a crowded beach or being attacked by a bear) arguably relax us more. I’m sure watching pretty videos relaxed test subjects. We’ve seen some gorgeous videos of landscapes and wildlife. Of course I appreciate professional videos of nature, but there’s no substitution for a real experience.
Whatever’s clever, I suppose.
The author of this article proposed a vacation spot that combined technology and nature. Personally, I’d hate to go on vacation where I’d have to download an app to stargaze or turn on the lights in my hotel. Some people may be totally into a tech-nature hybrid vacation; that would probably be a great happy-medium for people who need some R&R but can’t seem to let go of their phones for a week.
Nothing beats a vacation, and part of vacationing is taking a break from anything that can potentially stress us out in our everyday lives. Sure, our phones have the ability to do some pretty neat things, and I’ll definitely use mine to find out where I am and take #cool pictures, but their greatness distracts us from what we can actually experience around us. Paying thousands of dollars to lose our phones seems like nonsense, but perhaps a short tech Sabbath at the park every once in a while could do us some good.