Caitlin Jacob on the unplugged camp experience

One of the greatest benefits of an unplugged camp experience is the disconnect from social media and the pressures of the ‘outside’ or ‘real’ world. While putting away the tech can be daunting for a new camper, our long-time campers know very well just how freeing putting their phone away can be – that it’s a more-than-fair trade for the friends and experience of camp. Caitlin Jacob, who just finished her 7th summer with her CIT year, wrote the following piece, titled “Summer camps help escape everyday social circles” for her high school paper:

When I’m at home on the weekends, a large amount of my time is spent scrolling through social media. But I’m not on Instagram or TikTok looking at the latest trends or where people spent their summer vacation; instead, I’m looking at Snap Map. In fact, I’d say about an hour of my day is spent seeing where people are, not even necessarily those I’d consider to be my close friends.

I suppose this action stems from my fear of being left out of social gatherings and my resentment towards the feeling of doing nothing. Sometimes, though, I question this routine. After all, why has spying on people’s locations developed into such a large personal pastime ? It’s the times when I don’t have access to my phone, such as at my camp, when I’m truly able to enjoy life and live in the moment.

All too often, people tend to overlook the simple aspects of life experienced when in a remote program, and end up revolving their lives around where others appear to be on social media.

For about seven years, I had been a camper at a small, intimate all girls’ camp in Central Maine. This past summer, I returned once again to be a counselor in training. Whenever I’m there, I feel confident in who I am as a human being. I don’t feel deprived of my phone in the slightest, and am instead able to live in the moment and fully embrace a life that doesn’t involve the actions of others.

I’ll be honest, when the new Staples phone policy first came out I had been extremely frustrated, as my days in a way revolved around the actions of others. Having to put my phone in a small sleeve continuously made me believe I’d be excluded from multiple gatherings, not even knowing.

The more I reflected on this policy, the more I realized that every day when I was at camp I never felt excluded from whatever had happened at home. It was the pure action of not having access to my phone that made my life less “defined” by the actions of others. Maybe if I took a moment to fully embrace a phone and social media free life at home many of my worries regarding my own social life would disappear.

After all, studies have continuously proved that being in a remote location such as a camp does have a positive impact on one’s social skills and confidence. A study conducted by the American Camp Association showed that out of 167 campers, 140 had reported an increase in their social abilities.

Perhaps living a lifestyle not revolving around others’ social lives has overall made me a happier and more confident person, even if only for a couple of months each year. I will be eternally grateful for camp for providing me with an atmosphere free of much of the chaos and drama associated with friendships and friend groups at home.

Thanks, Caitlin, for the testament to the unplugged camp experience, and quelling some of the anxieties of putting our phones away to connect to one another. We hope to see you for another unplugged summer in 2023!

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