Image: The Green Bank Observatory Telescope in the town with no WiFi

The Town with No Wi-Fi: Connecting With Others By Leaving Your Phone Behind

You’ve probably thought about taking a break from social media from time to time, but can you imagine living without social media or cell phones entirely? This small town in West Virginia, USA, does just that. And though the reason is out of this world, the result can sometimes connect us deeper to our humanity.

For the 182 residents of Green Bank, West Virginia, modern conveniences like Wi-Fi, cellphones, microwaves, and even digital cameras are a thing of the outside world. You see, this town neighbors the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope—a piece of technology that allows scientists to observe everything from the formation of stars to the remnants of the big bang. And in order for these arrays to listen to the most “remote whispers of the universe” they require no interference from the ground. 1 So, what is life like in a community without cell phones or Wi-Fi? Are there some lessons that we can learn from a community living in an era from not so long ago?

“Do you have Wi-Fi?”

Construction on the Green Bank Observatory began in 1957. One year later, to protect the sensitive technology, the federal government established a National Radio Quiet Zone, spanning 13,000-square-miles and enveloping the town of Green Bank.

The restrictions on this town have allowed for a return to a type of community connection that was common in the not-so-distant past. In the absence of Wi-Fi, which we’ve all become accustomed to, the lives of the residents of Green Bank shed some light on what we may be missing out on in our hyper-connected world. See how this town does it!

Via: The Atlantic 2

Thank you to The Atlantic for this great video. 

You can check out some of the discoveries the Green Bank Telescope has made here or on their website, where you can dive deeper into all that they are finding in their studies. Or, if you’re ever in the neighborhood, you can also visit the Green Bank Observatory in person to learn about this magnificent telescope and in doing so, help fund the wonderful work they are doing there.

You can also read this really interesting piece from the New York Times that takes a look at the positive but complex impact Green Bank’s disconnected community has on its teenagers. The perspectives they bring up about teens’ mental health, social skills, and a deeper connection to the natural world are interesting to think about.

What we learn from other ways of life…

In the name of science, Green Bank has committed to living a lifestyle with a limited digital connections. From this perspective, we can imagine what that would look like for us, and perhaps even take a moment to reflect on how much of our lives are spent in the digital world.

Would we really feel comfortable knocking on our neighbor’s door to ask for a cup of sugar, or would we rather just use DoorDash? How often do we find ourselves absorbed in the curated lives of our Facebook or Instagram feeds when the people we love are sitting all around us? What could we gain if we spent more time just in the quiet presence of others or just ourselves and a good book?

Learning about other people’s ways of life gives us a way to reflect on our own habits and entrenched ways of doing things. Maybe we can’t (or don’t want to) disconnect our Wi-Fi routers, but maybe, we can experiment with disconnecting for a few hours a day and see how we feel. Perhaps we could discover a new way of living that better serves our mental health and our relationships with one another. 

And if you’re looking to dive deeper into how simpler times led to leaps in technology, check out this article next:

How We Predicted the Walk on the Moon, Cell Phones, and Siri!

For centuries now we have had a way of looking into—and even shaping—the future. But how is this possible? Well, some of our favorite movies and television shows are already giving us a glimpse into what life may look like in tomorrow’s tomorrow! Ready to take a peek?

Read More

Finally, there are tons of towns around the world that live differently than the masses. Here are two more of our favorite examples, from the Netherlands to South Australia! 

How This Little Town Survives without Roads or Cars

What if you never had to hear the sound of cars outside of your window again? For the residents of this Netherlandish town, that’s reality: most of Giethoorn isn’t accessible by four wheels, but rather by canal boat! Here’s a lovely look at a world without roads.

Read More
Human Ingenuity Never Fails: The Town Built Underground!

What do you get when you combine resilient people, extreme weather conditions, and a former mining town?  In Coober Pedy, residents live, work, grocery shop, and do everything else… underground. This unique and fascinating lifestyle is a great look into how humans can learn to thrive, no matter the challenges we face. They give a whole new meaning to the term “down under”!

Read More

Bring your joy to the surface and share it!

~ Brittany

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Notes:

  1. “About the Green Bank Observatory.” Green Bank Observatory, 3 Dec. 2021, https://greenbankobservatory.org/about/.
  2. TheAtlantic. “The Town Where High Tech Meets a 1950s Lifestyle.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Dec. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElrxvkeGwZA.
Published: January 24, 2022

Image: Brittany Nugent

Brittany Nugent

Executive Assistant & Podcast Producer

Brittany has been writing and creating stories since childhood! She graduated from Holy Family University with a degree in communications, is an avid world traveler (five of the seven continents!), lover of nature, and spends her days working to connect to the world in deeper ways. Have any questions about the awesome world of rocks and crystals? She's your gal.

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