“Digital Hygiene” Why We Disconnect by Marianna Orth

Jun 9, 2023 | Adam Trufant

Hi Camp Families! During our staff training in May, we reflected together on the value of time immersed in the beauty of the natural world, on the value of raw experiences in the wilderness, and the necessity of face-to-face interaction in real time. One of our senior staff members brilliantly produced these words to inspire our new staff members to dive in 100% to the unplugged authenticity of our camp family.

Take a look! – Adam

We Were Made for Nature

This past year, I’ve been studying Media Ecology, or the study of the effects of media and technology on the human mind.

“Camp is a microcosm of sanity in a world gone mad.”

In the past, the driving attitude towards nature was one of contemplative wonder, and this wonder inspired the first scientists, like Archimedes, Friar Roger Bacon, and Copernicus to thirst to know more. But in postmodern life, we’ve largely traded that wonder for a cynical know-it-all-ism, despite our knowing nothing about what makes humans happy.

We’ve dissected some of the secrets of the universe, but no technological paradise has come about. I think we’re all missing the truth of human happiness. 

Technology Disconnects Us from Ourselves

Humans are creatures of body and soul, knit together in communion. When we look at a screen, our mind is pulled out of us, swimming in a sea of data, and our bodies and active wills are stilled. We’re encouraged to immerse ourselves in absorbing and interacting with streams of data without thinking about how it impacts us.

What happens is usually one of two things.

  1. We immerse ourselves in getting ahead in this digital world, fully committed to the idea of achieving the most we can, with no goal besides material progress.
  2. We cave into the norm of seeking instant gratification through entertainment.

But neither everlasting achievement or vegging out goes to the heart of our deepest needs. This is why I want to talk about community. 

Humans Are Built for Real Community

Humans aren’t computers.

While technology may be able to connect us to loved ones afar, it can just as easily distance us from those in the same room. We aren’t computers. We may process information, but we have uniquely human demands. We’re the only creatures that exist in two worlds, the physical and the spiritual, and we have the needs of both.

We need God as our anchor point, where we as creatures of flesh and spirit can be at home—I’m not just saying this because my Christian faith compels me to, but also because I know philosophically that the person despairs if he has no eternal principle to anchor himself upon.

We need first principles, we need to know with a certainty that there is a purpose for our existence. We live in a dim world which is only a pale reflection of the real one, so it feels often as though God’s face is hidden from us. But we’ve been designed so that we see him in this dim world best in the faces of those we love. When we look into the face of another, we’re hit sometimes with the enormity of the other person as they are.

Who here really knows another person? To the core of their being? Who here can say that he or she knows all there is to know about another human soul?

How Camp Brings Us Back to Community

Here at camp, we’ve been given a great gift: the chance to detangle ourselves from our digital conditioning and see what human community looks like when we’re fully invested in each others’ presences.

We’ve been given a chance to know the kind of inter-knit community that people lived in before we were all told the Enlightenment lie that we’re individuals first and foremost. That’s a lie. We weren’t meant to be alone—this is a primeval truth that God spoke when he looked into the face of the first man.

This community might be messy and loud sometimes, but it’s heartbreakingly real, and what else can we really call real in a world where much of our lived experience is a simulation? The best thing that we will learn this summer is how to respond to our human need for each other’s company—to form the true web that will give the kids a place to be loved in and responded to. 

If camp seems like the world turned upside down, then it’s because the world is truly upside down and we’re momentarily disoriented as we’re turned right-side up again, in the words of G.K. Chesterton.

So open up your eyes, dive right in, and make the most of this chance, guys. It’s no accident that you’re here. The world hasn’t been able to put you to sleep yet, and clearly something in you responded to the good that is present here. Knowing a community like this one gives me some hope, that even if we’re fed lies on a daily basis, there’s something in us that desires truth and goodness and seeks it out. So when you leave here and go back to the world gone mad, take what you find here with you, and don’t despair.

“If camp seems like the world turned upside down, then it’s because the world is truly upside down and we’re momentarily disoriented as we’re turned right-side up again.”

Marianna Orth is the Head of Wilderness summer 2023 at Kahdalea. She is currently a Masters student at Duquesne University studying the Philosophy of Communication and Rhetoric.