FRESNO, CA -- Social media and the Internet are everywhere these days, but just how much screen time is too much and how do you know you're becoming obsessed?
Imagine a place where technology is taboo. Camp Grounded is a four-day camp focused on helping people detach from technology and relearn how to connect with others. "Where you're not defined by 140 characters, or defined by what you're SEO says you should be on the Internet. When you're just who you are, which is full of mistakes and beauty and everyone sees that. They're like, 'oh this is what life could look like," said Levi Felix, Digital Detox Camp Grounded Co-Founder.
Action News headed to the bay area to meet Felix. The Fresno native graduated from Bullard High. He started the camp in 2007 after working 70 plus hours a week at a tech company and ending up in the hospital. "I was like, 'how did I not realize I almost died.'"
A life changing moment that made Felix realize he was too focused on his devices and he wasn't alone. Since 2013, the camp has exploded in popularity. Taking place in Northern California and several other states including North Carolina and now New York. More than 3,000 people will attend this summer.
Fresno resident Ryan Pilegard attended the camp. After disconnecting from his smartphone, he went to classes like yoga and beat boxing. He said he left feeling refreshed and reminded to be present every day. "We have to come up with creative ways to always have these experiences where we feel connected to people."
But is dependency to technology as serious as other addictions? "Facebook depression is very real, Facebook envy is very real," Bradley Wajda, D.O & Psychiatrist and Addictions Specialist.
Dr. Wajda treats people at his Northwest Fresno facility. He said studies show people who are online have a higher prevalence of depression. Dr. Wajda said Americans are spending more than eight hours a day looking at screens and the addiction is happening in our brains. "You get a higher amount of dopamine activity going online then you do other things, so you want to reinforce that and keep it going."
So how do you know your reliance is going to far? Dr. Wajda said losing sleep is a sign your digital habit is becoming too much. His recommends to test yourself. Head outside and leave the technology behind. "You might try some green time instead of screen time and see how you tolerate it."
Felix said he knows after working in the tech world, many of us are fighting an uphill battle. "I think the real goal is figuring out how we want to integrate these screens into our lives."
But in the end, he said, slowing down and unplugging now and then will give you more power than you think.
Digital Detox: Unplugging from our online worlds