Rabbi David Segal served on the GFC faculty during the second week of our Summer Session. In his blog, he talks about how being disconnected from technology at camp strengthens the connections with the people and the spaces around us.


I have a little bit of a smartphone addiction. Ok, maybe more than a little bit. Facebook is my main time-suck, but I squander more hours than I like to admit with emailing and texting, too. Some of it is for work, or at least that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel so bad about my daily screen-time average. We have a rule at our house: No phones at the table. My kids enforce it strictly.


One of the refreshing things about spending a week as faculty at Greene Family Camp is that I’m not as attached to my phone as I am at home. I use it here and there to communicate with camp staff or my family, but my days are so full that there’s rarely even a temptation, let alone the time, to check my phone.


Coincidentally, one morning I was assigned to teach a lesson on technology and distraction to a bunk of teenage boys. First we made a list of which social media apps they use. Snapchat and Instagram were the most popular. One kid said that Facebook is only for people 40 and older, like his parents; the rest of the boys nodded. I guess that makes me an early adopter! (I’m 38.)


Next we made two side-by-side lists: ways technology is good, and ways it can be dangerous. On the positive side, the campers listed connection, communication, information, and school work. For the dangers list, they mentioned distraction, spreading false information, cyberbullying, and FOMO.


Then we analyzed several images from social media posts, asking what message the poster was trying to convey and what the backstory might be. The most provocative for my group was an Instagram post of sunglasses in the sand, with a caption explaining that the poster had spent 15 minutes setting up the shot to make it look like he was having fun at the beach. The boys were unimpressed that the poster seemed so desperate to impress people, and sad that he seemed lonely. They were as sober and mature about social media as any adult I know.


Devices that access the internet are not allowed at camp, though iPods are OK. All in all, the boys are happy with that rule. It makes them more emotionally available to their friends, more present in each moment. One kid shared that it makes reentry into life after camp difficult: His friends back home are immersed in texting and social media, but after weeks without his smartphone, he just doesn’t want to be glued to a screen.


It’s an analog life here at camp, and it’s wonderful. Lesson plans are printed on paper; so are schedules and announcements. Speaking of announcements: They’re delivered in person, with flair, after every meal. As for my time at camp: I did a puzzle for the first time in I can’t remember how long, played Scrabble with a new faculty friend, and enjoyed a few rounds of Chickapig with my son (a new board game designed by Dave Matthews, featuring chicken-pig hybrids and a cow that poops on the board).


Even though my kids occasionally begged for the iPad, most of the time they were too busy drawing, swimming, making lanyards, playing imaginary games, or just running around like maniacs with the other staff kids in the dining hall…and the new arts center…and the moadon.


My 4-year-old even did the zip-line for the first time, and showed no fear. She was excited and proud of herself. That’s an experience she could only have in person, not in front of a screen.


Afterwards I asked her how it was, and she replied, “Daddy, I said ‘whee!’”