From my background working with college outdoor programs, I have become accustomed to having a ‘no cellphone’ policy when in the outdoors with my participants. Usually participants give me a blank stare and a furrowed brow when I inform them that their phones can be left at home for our excursions, but by the end of the trip they are perfectly content not having their phones as an extension of their body. It is amazing to see how fast a group can bond together when people no longer hide behind and distract themselves with technology. Instead of retracting back into the safe cyber world of tweets and news feeds, people are pushed to relate to those around them on a deeper and more meaningful level. In urban settings, people are consumed by glowing screens. Whether in line to purchase their groceries, at their desk waiting for lecture to start, or at a dinner table sitting across from loved ones, it is not unusual to see a majority of individuals with their head down, tuning out the rest of the world. The Wall Street Journal recently posted an article about the inverse relationship between access to social networking and society’s satisfaction with their social interactions. In other words, relationships of substance are being replaced by superficial ‘likes’ and ‘friend requests’on social media. Instead of putting energy into knowing the people we work and go to school with in any substantial way, we focus on getting more likes and followers on Instagram and Facebook. This behavior makes avoiding person to person interaction easier and easier. However, when you are in the outdoors and out of cellphone signal’s reach, you are forced to connect with those around you rather than connecting to the internet. I have had my most meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones while on the trail or sitting around a campfire. This is where the social element of the 8 dimensions of wellness comes in. Those who have a vibrant and meaningful social life, have higher life satisfaction. Engaging in meaningful conversation with another human being can lead to new perspectives, validation of thoughts, unexpected musings, laughter, recollection of memories, interests in new hobbies, and inspiration for the future. You are bound to find common ground even with the most unlikely of people when put in a situation where there is nothing but you, them, and all the time in the world. With all this being said, I challenge you to unplug and reconnect with those around you.
To read more about technology and it’s effect on sociability check out The Wall Street Journal’s article: http://www.wsj.com/articles/is-technology-making-people-less-sociable-1431093491