Nature is commonly equated with a form of escape from our urban lives. We hope the environment will offer spiritual rewards for getting lost and finding solitude. On the one hand, there have been consistent efforts to protect areas that offer an organic experience in nature. While on the other hand, the attention drawn to protected environments has exploited their accessibility and enabled masses of people to travel through unique landscapes–leaving with nothing but a few photographs and maybe dirt on their shoes. The concern for the best photo-op and being able to stay connected while also disconnecting from “real life” has become more common.
Not only do we have to question how technology is affecting our ability to truly gain something from our experiences in nature–other than likes on an Instagram post–but also how technology has come to directly mediate our experience. With new options, like Fitbit Adventure, people can feel as though they are traversing well-known trails without ever having to leave suburbia. In this case, technology is directly affecting our perception of how we can interact with the environment. Even more so, with the accessibility to virtual reality headsets, users can choose to experience nature while sitting on the couch. This led me to question my relationship with nature and how technology plays a role in my experience.
- How often am I looking at my phone while trying to “escape” in nature?
- Why am I constantly trying to capture a worthy photo to document my experience on social media?
- Am I having an authentic experience even if I’m still checking my notifications?
The easy answer to these questions is to just deprive yourself of technology in the hopes that it will make your experience more authentic. Maybe even more real.
But let’s be honest. That’s not realistic for the majority of us. And even though it sounds like something you could easily pride yourself for doing, it feels a little extreme. There are still practical reasons to embrace technology even when you’re trying to escape the uniformity of urban life. What if you get lost, need a compass, would like to watch a movie on a camping trip, or simply want to stay connected? All we need is boundaries.
Here are some possible boundaries to protect your experiences in nature:
- Limit the amount of time you spend on devices. (Apple Screen Time can help you with this.)
- Turn-off your cellular data so you aren’t distracted by the “real world”
- Forget about posting about your experience! Be present–you will remember more if you aren’t concerned with selfie angles.
Most importantly, find what works for you. What does experiencing nature look like for you? And how does your relationship with technology affect that? For better or for worse.