Digital Detox Camp Is So Easy to Hate

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The existence of Camp Grounded, a weekend-long digital detox summer camp for adults, has come to the attention of the tech elite and they are outraged because, well, the gluten-free, sex-free, alcohol-free fallacy is a really easy thing to hate. A number of dispatches from the three-day-long, electronics-free "summer camp for adults" have described the experience as cleansing. "But by the end of the weekend, they say the experience gave them a new perspective on their relationships with technology and social media," reported NPR's Raphaella Baek. By the end of his stay Matt Haber, formerly of the Atlantic Wire, found himself spontaneously dancing and blissfully star-gazing, he wrote in The New York Times. "And for once, I was enjoying the silence." But despite the praise for the experience, people who manage to have a healthy relationship with their gadgets say: The jokes on you, fools. 

The idea behind the digital detox is something a lot of us can get behind: Who doesn't want to get away from work email and enjoy the moment once in a while. But it's these extreme methods so inaccessible to most people and not actually all that useful that make no sense to anyone who both loves technology and values their sanity. All of that is what's wrong with Digital Detox Camp. 

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It's Expensive. Much like Baratunde Thurston's 25-day absence from the Internet, Camp Grounded is for the rich. The experience costs $350 for three days. That's not only a lot of money for three days of sleeping in cabins in the woods, but it's a crazy amount to turn off your cell phone. The money pays for things like food and lodging and the overall ambience, but really you're paying $350 to unplug. To some, like Brian Lam, a man who has made a career out of unplugging (sometimes), that's ridiculous:

Stop Kidding Yourselves, It Doesn't Work. You know how after a really great exercise class you say to yourself I'm going to do this every week because I feel great now. And maybe you do it once more but then you fall back into old routines and never want to go to the gym ever again. That's what will inevitably happen to these refreshed Camp Grounded alumni. The person who told Baek that they will observe tech-free Friday nights from now on won't last through the fall. Sure, the "complaints were few and interpersonal conflicts nonexistent," as Haber explains—for a long weekend. But what happens after that? 

Giving up technology cold turkey for a weekend doesn't address the actual problem, as The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal explains. "There's nothing really wrong with escaping to the boonies," he writes. "But individuals unplugging is not actually an answer to the biggest technological problems of our time just as any individual's local, organic dietary habits don't solve global agriculture's issues." 

Speaking of, Why Is There No Meat at Camp Digital Detox? In addition to chucking all electronic devices, Camp Grounded enforces a bunch of other "cleansing" experiences that have nothing at all to do with disconnecting. There's no alcohol (or drugs) or meat or gluten or milk or sex. What's the point of that? "It turns out that the hippie future is way less fun than the hippie past," notes Madrigal. The whole thing creates that "Wes Anderson film" ambience Haber talks about. But, that just adds to the farce, doesn't it?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.