Levi Felix was on his way to the airport to board a Southwest Airlines flight when he was overcome with an illness he thought was food poisoning.
He never made it on board. Instead, he found himself hooked up to an IV with internal bleeding from a torn esophagus.
"I had only 26 percent of the blood left in my body. If I had gotten on that plane," he said, "I wouldn't have made it." He was 24.
That brush with death six years ago brought Felix, who had been pulling 60-hour weeks managing a team of 30 for the corporate philanthropy platform Causecast.com, plummeting to the ground.
"I had a Blackberry and two laptops online all the time to help other people change the world. That was our motto, 'Using social media for social good.' Here I was helping other people find their passion, unaware that I was dying in my living room and office."
He responded with a slow journey of healing and mental readjustment that eventually led to Camp Grounded, a summer camp in the Mendocino woods. Here, on the 88 acres of rustic Camp Navarro in Anderson Valley, overconnected adults check their devices and their professional and personal identities at the gate in order to play like kids without pretenses.
The camp is not a rejection of technology, but rather a chance to "disconnect to reconnect," says Felix, who launched the camp last June with his brother, Zev, drawing some 300 campers.
Felix also heads up Digital Detox in Oakland, offering device-free workshops and retreats to help people manage their screens so they don't hijack their lives.
Within the past decade, unplugging has emerged as a pressing social and psychological need. With access available almost anywhere 24/7, all walls between personal and professional obligations have come down. Multiple social media platforms must be checked and fed. People are forgetting how to be alone or present in the moment with one another, in person.
The backlash has begun with mass detachments like the National Day of Unplugging. The term "digital detox" is now recognized in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Psychologist Bruce Davis and his wife Ruth, of Vacaville, were inspired to create Silent Stay retreats, country hermitages where people can have contemplative weekends alone to heal, sort things out or refresh.
"In the old days, people would keep the TV on because they didn't want to be alone. Cellphones really are the same idea. It's important to value the silence of being alone. Keeping our phones going only makes us more alone and more dependent," said Davis, who started with a retreat in Assisi, Italy, and in 2012 opened a second on an unspoiled hilltop near Vacaville.
While guests aren't sworn to silence, the atmosphere is hushed, like a library.
"We live in an addictive and compulsive culture. We're so mental we become separated from our hearts," said Davis, who frequently writes on the topic for the Huffington Post.
Felix also maintains that Camp Grounded, for all its group goofiness — like a 1970s-themed dance, games of Capture the Flag and Rock-Paper-Scissors, face-painting and talent shows — is also about something more than simply silencing our devices.
"We're going so fast we're constantly reacting to, sharing, producing and consuming information on the Internet," Felix said. "The focus of camp is not what we're running away from. It's more about what we want to run toward in life."