A week without cell phones
By Calvin Lescault
Last summer, as a leader for a week-long camp of 50 high school students, one of my responsibilities was to collect all cell phones and lock them in a closet for the week. There were 50 campers from Myers Park High School and five leaders; we collected 55 phones and placed them in labeled Ziploc bags.
There were no televisions, no video games, no computers. Our camp had two pay telephones. It was an ideal experiment in technology withdrawal. It was hot that week, but our cabins had air conditioning.
Getting completely away from technology can be a difficult task, and one that most people would not voluntarily choose. People like being connected to their iPhones and Twitter, so being away from that can be an odd feeling.
The first few days of camp, kids complained about not being able to text their friends in Charlotte or check their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Our camp was in Sharptop Cove, one hour north of Atlanta. Some students asked for their phones back, especially at night time when everyone was in their cabins. Other students wanted to be able to talk to their friends back home and see what they were doing. They mentioned feeling phantom vibrations in their pockets from being so used to having their phones there.
As the week continued, the complaining diminished and eventually disappeared. Our students began to realize that nothing important was going on for the seven days they were at camp and away from Charlotte. Camp activities became busier and face-to-face interaction became much more important and valuable to communication. There was no way to talk to someone unless you found them and talked face-to-face. Our students quickly formed 'usual' hangout spaces where they could assume that they would find their friends. Our experience reinforced Charles Berger's communication theory in 'uncertainty reduction.' The idea is that as people spend more time together and uncertainty is reduced, trust and interaction increase.
The students on the trip really bonded together, even though they represented different ages and social cliques. The coolest thing was watching high school seniors hang out with freshmen. By the time we got on the bus back home, students were content to talk with anyone who was on the bus. When they asked for their phones back and we said that we would give them back later they did not put up much of a fight. We gave them their phones back when it was time to call their parents.
The camp trip was amazing for many different reasons. The way students lived comfortably with no interaction with any technology, and the way the absence of technology strengthened relationships, were two of them.
**Calvin Lescault is a senior communication and political science major at Queens.