By Moss Herberholz
“Our smartphones can contribute or detract from the meaning that life has to offer, and an awareness of how we use them can help ensure they serve us, rather than only being an endless source of distraction that lives forever in arms reach.”
I recently read an article entitled Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain by Kevin Roose. The article talks about the overuse of electronic devices (specifically smartphones) and how it can be an unhealthy habit. Smartphones play an important role in society today. They are used for communication, recreation, transportation, work, and more. Most people are reliant on these devices as they navigate their personal and professional lives. I personally use my smartphone all the time and find it very helpful.
I also often find myself compulsively checking my phone and mindlessly scrolling through it when I have a moment of downtime. Unfortunately, I find myself wasting away hours on Facebook rather than spending time reading a book, having a conversation, or engaging in something else that feels more meaningful. In the moment this mindless scrolling gives me some small amount of satisfaction, but it often leaves me feeling empty.
The students at BaMidbar have an amazing opportunity to disconnect from their virtual lives for the time that they are here. Although this can be challenging in an era where our digital lives take up so much mental space and energy, the chance to reconnect with our immediate surroundings can have immense benefit. Separated from the endless source of distraction that smartphones can provide, students inevitably face those things that feel tender, scary, or hard. It allows them to parse out what habits and beliefs do not serve them and to discover how they can engage more fully with themselves and others. In a recent conversation on this topic, one student said that he did not miss social media, and that it was nice to have such a long break from it.
When I read the article by Kevin Roose I experienced a sense of gratitude for the work that I am doing. I am grateful that I am able to separate myself from my smartphone for days at a time while I backpack with our students. This respite from technology allows me to check in with the living world, foster authentic relationships with my co-staff and our students, engage in hard skills such as whittling utensils and making friction fires, read good books, and much more. It reminds me of what it is like to live a life without an endless source of information and distraction right in my pocket; a life filled with exploration, discovery, and healthy amounts of restorative boredom. This time away from my phone has allowed me to recognize the unhealthy habits I have around its use and take actionable steps to replace those habits with ones that serve me.
My hope is that more people become aware of unhealthy habits they have around their electronics and in so doing are able to engage more fully with themselves and others. Our smartphones can contribute or detract from the meaning that life has to offer, and an awareness of how we use them can help ensure they serve us, rather than only being an endless source of distraction that lives forever in arms reach.
Moss fell in love with the wilderness while participating in a six-week educational backpacking program in California, where he studied natural philosophy and nature psychology. Moss has a BA in Psychology and a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Moss joined the BaMidbar team in a logistics role, and now works as a field guide. He has spent four summers working with campers with special needs at Ramah in the Rockies, including two summers when he was the Director of Inclusion. Additionally, Moss spent ten months in Israel as a Fellow in the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows program, where he taught English. Moss also spent two seasons working as a Jewish Nature Educator for Teva, one of Hazon’s numerous programs. In his free time, Moss loves to dance, play board games, read, and he is a practiced fire performer.