Life without Lines of Communication

Kate Ginley, Staff Writer

What happens when you drop a group of teenagers in the woods with no Wi-fi?

Bad things. VERY bad things.

Now, no teenager is going to willingly let go of a phone, iPad, or computer that grants them access to popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. So when I went on my church retreat down in Los Gatos, I couldn’t believe that they would actually take away our technology. What did they think we were going to do with it? Oh yeah, that’s right. I was texting my friends, trying to convince them to get me out of there.

No phone, no escape.

After being forced to wake up at 6:00am on a Saturday, I arrived at the retreat center, which was surrounded by a lush, green forest that never ended. Believe me, I tried to find a way out.

There had to have been about 100 people at the settlement, so you can imagine how cramped it got when they pushed us into to room to talk about our feelings. There were only a few rules at the camp, and if broken, you were to be sent home immediately and kicked out of the St. Mary’s Catholic Church Confirmation program.

I’m fairly certain I broke every single one.

First of all, there was to be no technology. Meaning they first politely asked for your phone, but if they had a suspicion you didn’t turn it in, they sent the Junior Core (the adults’ teenage minions) to search your room. Luckily, I had befriended a few of the Junior Core who stopped the others, saying, “She’s cool and would tell us if she was hiding anything.”

This was obviously our first meeting. She was unaware of the iPhone and video camera that was stuffed in my duffle bag.

With my two friends from Campolindo, freshmen Audrey Moore and Kathryn Daniel, we explored the perimeters and found some rooms that they should have locked up. The most interesting room was the one they used to keep snacks. We raided the snack room, taking all the peanut butter Girl Scout Cookies we could find as well as a few dozens bags of pure sugar.

It’s not our fault they didn’t keep the room locked.

At the retreat, we were forced to endure strange games. One of which consisted of having to run seat to seat when they called a specific preference or item that applied to you. I don’t remember ever leaving my seat.

Of course, since it was a church retreat, there had to be at least one spiritual aspect to it. So, they made the auditorium candle-lit (with mostly fake candles) and told us to think of something terrible someone had done to us and forgive them by lighting a candle on an alter, signifying the release of the sin that was holding us back.

Everyone sat there, staring at the ground. I wasn’t sure if they were actually mulling over their dark pasts or if they sat there, bewildered, like me. Several memories crossed my mind but in each circumstance, I didn’t want to forgive them.

That was not very Catholic of me.

So, I stood up and went to one of the adults and asked “What if I can’t forgive?” I was immediately pulled into a bear hug by a woman I had never talked too before as she explained that I needed to pray to God to help me be able to forgive myself. 

Following the ceremony, where I couldn’t even light the candle on my own, we were supposed to write about our experience and how we were now free of sin. Except, I wasn’t.

The thing about technology, like phones, is that it is a form of communication. It allows you to talk to loved ones who may be a thousand miles away.

Even though I had broken almost every rule they had, I was glad I broke the one about technology. Because in that moment, I knew I had to make a very important phone call that no burning candle could fix, to my sister. Hiding in my dorm and ensuring my safety, I wrote out a long text, reliving all the bad times but also letting all the good times cloud my mind. And though I might not always like my sister, I will always love her.

So, in the end, I confirmed that teenagers can’t survive without technology. Not because we have become caught up in social media (okay, maybe a bit) but because it acts as a spider web that stretches across the globe and each strand connects us to everyone important in our lives. And if you take that away from us, it doesn’t matter if we believe in Heaven or not, because there will be Hell to pay.