Watching the speed of the technological revolution take the world often overwhelming. Every day, it seems there's a new way to "connect" by new innovative social media tools, and working with Teenagers gives me a bird's eye view of what's going on.
I've tried to avoid becoming the "old guy" who doesn't know what's going on, but sometimes I feel myself slipping, especially when a student asked me the other day, "You still email? WOW!"
Email? I wonder if this kid had any idea how new (relatively) email is to humanity. Sure, it's no Instagram video technology, but when you think about it, over the last two decades everything about communication has changed. I wonder what they would think if someone actually took the time to write, GASP, a hand-written letter?
I've been watching, waiting, researching, and studying teen behavior as a precursor to how business will be conducted in the future. I've been seeing innovative students who are applying the ground breaking cultural revolution to their everyday friendships, and I've often been more than a little concerned. With all the access to communication, are we really more connected?
Sure, we can blast a text message to our friends at any time, knowing our voice will be heard without any notion of working through a problem.
Yes, we can Facebook message, tweet, and even Snapchat our favorite pictures to be discussed.
But do those thousands of "friends" actually help our plague of loneliness? Or, have we just fallen desperately aware of how lonely we really are?
A friend recently shared an article with me at the NPR blog that has piqued my interest. A new company called Digital Detox is actually trying to enter the marketplace for those who have been so consumed with digital relationships they need a "TIME OUT."
They have established retreats where people go to literally detox from all the technology around us. One attendee actually was quoted as saying, "You read articles about being present and being in the moment, and you kind of nod your head and you agree. But I don't think you know what that means until you put everything away and you're OK with where you are," says Anastasia Savvina, who attended the June camp.
What have we become?
Sure there are enormous benefits to the efficiency of being online, but are the methods taking away from being able to have "real" conversations?
Most of you know I run a teen retreat in the summertime, and we actually do a program similar. We take the iPhones, Tablets, and Computers and lock them away in a safe for two weeks. We ask the students to see how impactful it can be to develop stories with each other in the moment.
They bike, hike, raft, rock climb, and take time to develop skills to look each other in the eye. They learn how to have conversations with one another where they have to negotiate body language, deal with potential rejection, and work through conflict resolution without the help of a text message or Twitter feed. And, although it's not central to our message, it's becoming more and more important. The students beg me to keep technology away because they get a break from the pressure of feeling connected all the time.
It takes a couple of days, but after two weeks without, you can't even begin to imagine the changes in these students in terms of confidence, self awareness, and the ability to go out and start their own adventure void of feeling like they have to see what everyone else is doing on whatever timeline their watching. I've asked thousands what their biggest fear is, and the majority of students agree, their biggest fear is being alone!
We all know social media is a revolution that isn't going to return to the days of the Pony Express, but inside our social media use, it's important we don't forget the value of developing human relationships. Even today's most high-profile tech leaders are taking at least one day a week to detox from their own tech world. (See HUFF POST ARTICLE HERE)
In a world where parents, mentors, and student leaders are trying to keep up with the latest technology, there's a place where we can lock arms to develop a balanced view of relationship. Wee need to create places to help students understand how to use the technology they have for the maximum benefit. We need leaders who will help innovate ways for us to work more efficient and communicate in new ways. But we also need a place to work through this plague of lonely people we're raising who live their entire lives through the profiles of the latest social media outlet.
Who would have every thought? A camp where people actually pay to get out of the exciting world of tech?
I can speak from experience. With more than 15 years working with students and families from all corners of the globe, a healthy habit of digital detox can solve a mountain of problems. After all, a central part of the human condition is at the core, to be in relationship with others.
I've learned how to test it, and it works. Take a day and see for yourself. I think you'll be surprised how addicted we really are!