Plugging In To Camp

I’m a believer in social media and technological advances designed to make communication easier. As a writer, I appreciate the ease of searching for experts to contact when I need factual verification for my articles. As a teacher, I love how well-made, engaging websites bring content to life for my students. As a mom, wife, daughter and friend, keeping in touch with the people in my life (sometimes, whether I want to or not) has become as simple as a few keystrokes.

For all the enjoyment technology brings me, there’s one place I still don’t want it to bridge--camp. I know, I know. As irony would have it, I’ve got an article in the May/June 2011 Camp Business magazine on—what else?—making social media work for camp businesses. But that’s the business end of things. At the risk of being labeled old-school, old-fashioned or even hypocritical, I harbor strong emotions toward keeping camp a technology-free zone.

Despite my desire to keep out cell phones and limit the amount of e-mail parents send campers, I feel very much in the minority. In today’s society, it seems no one can accomplish any task, however small, without logging in to some network or web page to let everyone know. We’re raising teens with an almost-obsessive reliance on checking e-mail, updating Facebook statuses, sending tweets and looking up Foursquare friends being connected. It isn’t that this connectedness in and of itself is a bad thing. Making the world a smaller place is a great ambition and helps us relate to others in a way societies of the past never could.

Still, for the week, two weeks or month of camp, I’d like to keep the focus on the moment, the reality show that is camp. I’d like to narrow the tweets to those that come from the birds in the trees greeting us each morning. I want status updates on how much fun campers had at the activity the evening before and to see networking in the form of camper warm fuzzy notes covering the window of the dining lodge each morning. And I certainly advocate writing home to let parents know about the friendships and memories campers create each day, memories I want stored long-term without the benefit of a memory card or flash drive—I just prefer it be paper, pencil and stamp-sent.

I’ve labeled myself as a camp purist--at camp, we reduce ourselves to the simplest terms possible: camper, counselor and nature. Beyond that, networking can wait.

Beth Morrow is a freelance author, educator and member of the Central Ohio Diabetes Association’s Youth Committee and Camp Leadership teams. She has served for 16 years as Senior Week program director for Camp Hamwi, a residential, age-based, week-long residential camp for diabetic youth. Reach her via e-mail at: