In my last article, I talked a lot about the importance of maintaining a healthy balance with technology and taking a break from your screens. I didn’t want my words to not hold any truth, so I wanted to share an experience where unplugging from technology proved to be extremely beneficial for me. Two summers ago, I had the opportunity to unplug for an entire month and take a break from reality.
I know you’re probably thinking how I could last without technology for a month. But that month was a whole lot easier than I thought it was going to be when I first started out.
I spent the first month of my summer after sophomore year in Jasper, Georgia. Nicknamed “The First Mountain City,” Jasper is home to a peaceful landscape, quaint downtown and one of the greatest Young Life camps in the nation — SharpTop Cove. For those of you who have never heard of Young Life, it’s a non-denominational Christian ministry that places volunteers at surrounding universities, high schools and middle schools to meet kids and introduce them to the Gospel. The relational ministry reaches out to adolescents through volunteers, club meetings and camps by building meaningful relationships.
YL Summer Staff gave me a month-long opportunity to serve Jesus and hundreds of kids while growing personally and spiritually. I was an A.M. Cook, which meant waking up at 5 a.m. to flip a heck ton of pancakes on Tuesday mornings, prepping food for the camp, and being the go-to person for food allergies and specific requests. It was hard and I absolutely walked into the freezer a couple times just to wake myself up, but it was an extremely humbling experience that helped me grow exponentially. It was absolutely one of the most significant months of my life so far.
It was a requirement to keep our phones and any other distracting technology secured in a bin for the duration of the month. No texts, no calls, no social media. At first, I was apprehensive about the process just because I don’t think I had lasted more than a week without a phone. But as each day passed, there was something so beautiful about not having to worry about it.
- All my conversations were so intentional. I’m not kidding when I say that every conversation I had was deliberate. Each person I talked to genuinely wanted to know about my life and wanted to know me for who I was. Nothing was forced. I wanted to know these people just as much as they wanted to know me. We also never had to worry about not having enough time – some days, we talked until the sun came up!
- I got to be present. Sure, there were plenty of things to worry about back home. I still had to fundraise for another upcoming Young Life volunteer trip, my school schedule for the following semester was all messed up, and I had to figure out how else I was going to make money that summer. I’m sure my friends were doing a million cool things that I’d be missing out on. But at SharpTop, I didn’t care. I was so focused on where I was and appreciative of where I was that I didn’t have to think about the real world and what I was going back to. I didn’t have to worry about scrolling through Instagram and missing out on concerts or have my friends call me about pointless drama. It was such a nice feeling to feel zero stress and not worry about the pressure of pleasing everybody else.
- Snail Mail!!! This was one of the coolest benefits to not having a phone. I LOVE getting hand-written letters and LOVE sending them. There’s something special about receiving a handwritten letter. It was a nice change to wait a week before receiving a letter and replying with three pages of information instead of immediately tweeting out pointless things just because I thought I should.
When I got my phone back at the end of the session, I almost didn’t want it anymore. My life had been so peaceful and so good without it. That tiny glimpse of unplugging for a month made me realize just how doable it is to unplug for an hour or a day. I’m not saying you should unplug for a month, but what if you did? Maybe a break from “reality” and this overstimulated world wouldn’t be so bad.