Penn Students Try Disengaging With Technology to Build Relationships

No phones, tablets or computers are allowed.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the Penn Disconnects student group is encouraging students to unplug from technological devices and instead engage in human contact with friends on campus.

The group is holding events from April 28 to May 3 aimed at having participants attend social events where texting, emailing and checking social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, are prohibited. “There’s something very meaningful about person-to-person contact and that’s what we’re advocating for,” says junior Joyce Kim, a co-founder of Penn Disconnects. “It’s this idea of being cognizant of exactly how much time you spend using technology and removing yourself or unplugging yourself from that.”

Kim, who is a political science major from Allen, Texas, and co-founder Aaron Wilson of New Rochelle, N.Y., created Penn Disconnects in 2013 as a one-day event with the help of three friends Elan Kiderman also of New Rochelle, N.Y., Kyle Hardgrave of Potomac, Md., and Kelsey Matevish of Santa Rosa, Calif.

This year, the group has expanded the event to six days, with activities that include an outdoor movie night and a camp out complete with s’mores. There will also be a picnic on College Green, dinners at nearby restaurants and a visit to Old City’s art galleries as part of the First Friday festivities.

Matevish, a senior majoring in economics and religious studies, has been watching the weather hoping for clear skies for the camp out event that she is in charge of.

“Due to end of the year scheduling being so tight, we don't have a rain date,” says Matevish. “Luckily it looks like right now we are in the clear.”

Texting and emailing have become a popular way for most people to communicate, so to entice students to participate, Penn Disconnects is offering all of the events free, including the dinners. “I think a lot of students are cognizant that it’s not the best practice to text, talk or email at dinner,” says Kim. “Checking our phones is a cultural thing, but it’s starting to get in the way of meaningful human interaction that you’ve set aside time for."

Although the group is encouraging people to disconnect from devices at the events, they acknowledge that the best way to get the word out about the events is by using social media. So far, Penn Disconnects’ Facebook page has nearly 100 “likes.”“It’s important to take away the best of what technology offers,” Kim says.

The group hopes Penn Disconnect events will help raise awareness and student will become mindful of when and how to use smartphones, tablets and other technology in their interactions with other people.

For more information about the Penn Disconnects events, go to:

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