I’m a borderline social media addict: I spend a lot of time tweeting, posting to Facebook, checking my Twitter interactions, pinning to Pinterest, adding people to Google+ Circles and, from time to time, checking my Klout score.
So when Memorial Day Weekend arrived, I was excited to go on a camping trip with family and friends. Not only would it be fun, I reasoned, but I’d get to spend a few days completely “off the grid” – no email, no Twitter, no Facebook. A complete loss of voice and data coverage, in fact!
Along the way, I found many benefits on the camping trip. If you’re a borderline (or full) social media addict, you should consider a camping trip this summer. Here’s why.
1) Teaches you to manage scarce resources.
During our “everyday lives,” we take many things for granted. We often assume unlimited resources: the heat can stay on all night, we can microwave leftovers any time we’d like and if our fridge is empty, we can run out to the convenience store, any time of night.
On a campground, however, it’s clear that your resources are limited and scarce. You’ve only brought along so much firewood, ice and supplies. You have no electrical outlets. And the fire only burns so long – and you can’t bring it into the tent with you!
The result? You learn (quickly) how to efficiently manage the resources available to you.
2) Gets you off the grid.
With widespread 3G/4G coverage and WiFi available in most stores, restaurants and hotels, we’re never far from reach of phone calls, downloading email and sending status updates. We’re online all day long and when we turn out the lights to sleep, our blinking or glowing smartphones are often right next to us. It was actually a pleasant departure to be completely off the grid for nearly 48 hours.
3) Teaches you to find creative solutions.
In the picture above, the item on the right looks like a hearty chicken drumstick. Wrong! It’s dough. We discovered some online articles (before we left) on how to make biscuits on a campfire. We used biscuit dough, browned them thoroughly over the flame, then dipped them in melted butter, cinnamon and sugar.
While walking along a stream, we met another group who was fishing for crawfish. They found long, straight branches, affixed a strand of string, weighed the string down by tying on a rock, then attached bacon to the end of the string. They waited for crawfish to swim out from under rocks, then pulled them up when they went for the bacon.
4) Gives you face-to-face time for an extended period.
When spending time with family and friends, how often do we sneak a peek at our smartphones? There are times when I try not to, but invariably, I can’t resist the temptation to see how many unread emails I have waiting for me. Or, whether I have new interactions on Twitter.
And that’s the great thing with camping and being off the grid. You experience the outdoors with loved ones and there are no distractions pulling at you. You have everyone’s undivided attention and they have your’s. It was great.
5) Reminds you how to act responsibly within a community.
To be effective and respected in social media circles, you need to act responsibly and follow the “local” customs. A campground keeps you sharp on this front: no noise past 10pm, camp fires should be extinguished, etc. If you don’t act properly, you can affect the entire community (e.g. leaving a campfire unchecked).
6) Allows you to connect with nature.
It was great to be immersed in nature for an extended period of time. I walked through the woods and along streams. I skipped rocks through the water. The air was crisp and one morning, I awoke to the sounds of woodpeckers drilling a few holes into the trees above me.
7) Makes you appreciate what’s most important in life.
I got to spend significant quality time with family and friends. It made me realize that they are most important to me, far more than online friends, followers, tweets, retweets and Likes. If you feel like the pace of life has become overwhelming (to your family), a camping trip may be just the thing you need.
8) Makes you humble.
I got to sleep underneath tens (if not hundreds) of enormous redwood trees. When I’d stand at the bottom and look up, I could barely see the top of the tree. These trees, like other wonders of nature, make me feel humble. And feeling (and acting) humble is a good thing for interacting online in social media.
9) Makes you appreciate what you have.
With overnight temperatures in the 40’s, the sleeping environment was uncomfortably cold! I’d put on a ski jacket, then proceed to zip my sleeping back up to my neck. When I returned home, I had a renewed appreciation for my house: the heat, the stove, the shower, the TV. I swear that my first shower back home was one of the most enjoyable ever.
10) Makes you return with a new focus or perspective.
You may return with a new focus in life – or, your time away may lead you to develop a new focus or perspective on your social media activities. You could, like me, decide to blog about the experience. The respite from social media may be just what you needed.
In summary, consider going camping! Those of you who are regular campers may now consider me a wimp. But if you’ve never gone camping – or, you haven’t been in a while, take a break from our super-connected, 24-hour-news-cycle world and go pitch a tent in the woods!
Note: I invite you to connect with me on Google+.