How Young People Are Using "Tech for Good" to Maintain and Make New Friends in Isolation
This is where the power of social media was put to good use. In conversations with several high school and college students, we came up with some key factors. Do something with your friends while on Zoom calls including: Play Pictionary, create PowerPoints about some fun facts about yourself and share, host Hulu and Netflix Parties, and participate in Scavenger Hunts that take you offline in your home, but bring you back together online. Even though video addiction can be a serious problem, balanced video game playing allowed many to stay connected over the phone while they played or on the platform Discord. The power of communication became very important to maintaining relationships because different people had different needs for friendship. If one person wanted to connect more than another, it could create tension and discomfort. Several students talked about learning to communicate these needs with their friends. One thing some really missed was the easy, spontaneous “hang out” times, so some started turning on their Zoom or FaceTime and “did their own thing” while they were connected via a digital device. In order to maintain relationships throughout quarantine my friends and I would schedule weekly zoom calls that would consist of different games, talking to one another about how we were feeling emotionally/ mentally and each week someone would have to pick a new topic to make a PowerPoint about. For example, one week was all about which breed of dog our friends were most similar to. These PowerPoints were always a great way to get in a good laugh and forced us to be creative and unique! - Rebecca Deny, Chapman University ‘21
How We Can Best Support Young People This Semester
In this unprecedented time of uncertainty and the need for tech to maintain human interactions, tech-life balance is going to be more difficult. What we’ve heard from youth is that they want the research, but they don’t want to be told what to do with their digital lives. They want to be asked. As educators and family members, discussing the role of technology in our own lives is a great place to start. When we share our pain points whether Zoom Fatigue, the addictive lure of following news stories on Twitter or missing the in-person social gatherings, it becomes a community struggle during this Pandemic, rather than an adult telling a young person to “put their phone down.” Then we can ask Gen Z about their own digital lives, pain points, and ideas for solutions. Modeling Tech-Life Balance is always the greatest teacher. If you are an educator with distance learning this Fall, hosting wellness breaks during class supports both you and your students. Acknowledging Zoom Fatigue and scheduling 3-minute breaks that can include, a short meditation, a guided stand and stretch sequence, and a chance to jog in place, cameras on or off. For educators alternating online class time with offline tasks throughout the block schedules in Tech-Life Balance. Frequent Break Out sessions to discuss the material in smaller groups also helps break up the activity so students aren’t staring at the screen for long periods of time. Digital Detoxes are more difficult during the Pandemic, but short breaks from technology to get outside, go for a walk or bike ride, try a new hobby like gardening or cooking have been top-rated suggestions. It also keeps one engaged in the “real” world, socially distanced and with masks.
Going to School Online? Read These Students' Tips for Tech-Life Balance
By Alexandra Dempsey from Freedom At Freedom, we love our users – not just because they use our product, but because they’re cool – cool people working on cool stuff. Academy Award-nominated screenwriters, bestselling authors, editors, journalists, developers, illustrators, designers, academics, coaches, podcast hosts, comic book writers, students, and entrepreneurs – the Freedom community is packed with curious, creative, and passionate go-getters. We love to share their stories, advice, and process because how better to learn about productivity than from the productive? Meet Susan Reynolds. Susan Reynolds has over 20 years of experience in digital wellbeing, mindfulness and youth leadership. Susan started her career as a teacher and has since held roles as a curriculum developer, Director of Academic Technology, social entrepreneur, and yoga instructor – just to name a few. In 2019 she co-founded LookUp.live, a fast-growing nonprofit that funds youth-led innovations aimed at solving some of today’s toughest problems: burnout, depression, loneliness, social injustice, lack of genuine connection, and insomnia among many other problems—all escalated by our new world of technology and 24/7 connectivity. LookUp.live also partners with academic institutions across the US to promote and amplify youth-based solutions for tech-life balance through competitions, campaigns, and workshops. As this school year begins and many students switch to different forms of distance learning, finding solutions to our digital problems is more important than ever. So this week we decided to reach out to Susan to learn a little more about the challenges facing today’s students and the tools and strategies they are using to improve their relationship with tech. What originally inspired you to work with young people and technology? I began my middle school teaching career in 1986 when technology was in the distant future. In 1997, I was asked to create a “Tech Plan” for my school because the newly hired Director of Technology was too busy wiring the school, literally crawling in the attic and dropping cables into classrooms. Don Tapscott’s book “Growing Up Digital” was the first book I read where he predicted internet addiction even then. Tapscott introduced me to the promise and peril of technology for youth. Armed with knowledge and a purpose, I became the Academic Director of Technology at the Fenn School. In that role, I introduced teachers and students to teaching with technology, which sparked conversations and concerns about the double-edged sword of online life. My students spent more time on AOL Instant Messenger than homework, and I couldn’t blame them—I found the internet quite addictive as well. My use of technology evolved alongside my students’, but it wasn’t until 2014 when I read about the escalating mental health crisis among youth and college students that I delved more deeply into the correlation between this crisis and students’ digital lives. After running a pilot at Dartmouth College, I realized adult solutions might be good for some, but many other students had their own ideas about how to manage their technology use — including a phone-free fraternity party. When 17-year-old Juliet Gildehaus spoke about the difficulty of balancing her social media use when her friends were not, she created the LookUp Challenge. The challenge was a week-long commitment to take a break from social media, one’s phone, and or excessive video gaming in a manner that worked for them. The power of a student led program that involved choice, youth agency, and community participation became the precursor for LookUp.live where we empower youth through their own solutions and ideas. We host the LookUp StartUp Competition on college campuses, as well as our own virtual competition, and bring the LookUp Challenge to middle schools and high schools where student leaders iterate it in the way that works for their school community. Why is tech-life balance so important for this age group in particular? Gen Z was the first generation to grow up alongside today’s advanced technology and digital world. With the release of smartphones in 2006 and the escalation of social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat by 2010, teens’ social lives have begun to take place more and more online. Adolescence is a time when peer relationships become more important and experiences are more rewarding when shared, so if a teen’s peers are on social media, that’s where that teen wants to be too. A generalized statement from correlative research shows that students who spent more time on tech and less time engaged in offline activities were more likely to be depressed, anxious, or lonely than their peers who spent more time engaging in offline activities. Digital addiction is an emerging global epidemic, which some link to the escalating mental health crisis among youth 10-24 including anxiety, depression, loneliness, distorted reality and social imbalance. College students in one study reported experiencing depression (40%), hopelessness (51%) and overwhelming anxiety (60%) in the last 12 months. The Government of South Korea has declared internet use a public health crisis, and “gaming addiction” is now a classified disease by the World Health Organization. Youth’s relationship with technology is complicated. Young people positively use technology for civic engagement, entertainment, self-expression, creativity, learning, and many other activities. Yet, unfettered access also presents challenges: Youth largely feel no expectation of privacy online 50% say they feel addicted to their phones 68% believe social media negatively impacts their peers 72% believe they are manipulated by tech companies 56% do not feel confident identifying truthful information And while 43% have witnessed incivility/conflict online, 39% believe it’s acceptable, while 32% elect to withdraw from the conversation. Though there are many factors, correlative data between excessive use of digital devices and social media in multiple studies (NIH) signifies the call to address youth digital addiction. Technology is here to stay, in many positive ways, but overuse can diminish them. Tech-life balance is a way to address this complicated issue. Today, nearly 100% of all solutions are designed and driven by adults with little, if any, youth engagement. This is why we founded LookUp.live. We believe empowering youth to design the solutions to have agency over their relationship with technology is the best way to make a positive social impact. What would you say are the main problems caused by technology the next generation is facing? In what ways has the pandemic heightened or lessened these issues? This is an important conversation we’ve had with LookUp Social Innovators, Teen Council and Interns. Here’s what some of them had to say: For many young people today, technology is all they’ve ever known. Many people view technology as a way of making us more efficient and productive, but there are some serious downsides to technology reliance and overuse, especially for young people today who haven’t known a world without it. In my own personal experience, I’ve found that the more I’m immersed in technology, the harder it is to focus. It’s more difficult to read and write without distraction. Plus, at any given moment, a notification could steal my attention away from the task at hand.
The other key problem I’ve found is that my generation struggles with real-life interaction more than other generations do. For instance, many of my friends refuse to take phone calls because they don’t like the vulnerability of it—texting feels safer and less exposed. If texting is our preferred method of communication, it makes sense that we would be anxious in real-life social situations where body language, eye contact, tone, and speed of speech all matter—not to mention we can’t delete what we say in real life after we’ve said it!
Related to this, my generation is undergoing a loneliness crisis: while it may seem that 24/7 connectivity would foster connection, it actually leaves us feeling like we’re not enough due to competition culture and inaccurate depictions of lives on social media. Naturally, the pandemic has heightened all three of these issues: with our lives being forced to move online now more than ever before, it’s been more and more difficult to avoid these tech-related issues.
― Katie Santamaria, Columbia University ‘21 There exists a link between heavy social media usage and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, self-harm, and loneliness. These negative feelings are created because social media breeds a toxic environment in which people constantly compare their lives with the lives of others. This can especially affect young people, who not only use social media more but are more susceptible to desiring superficial qualities and things they do not have. However, the irony of social media is that people are not comparing themselves to another person, they are comparing themselves to an image painted by the other person, and all too often the picture is not an accurate representation of that person’s life. The lack of transparency between real life and the life depicted on social media often distorts reality for many adolescents and young adults and can lead to issues with self-confidence and image.
- Nathan Camilo, Dartmouth College ‘21 Have any of the young people you work with changed their ideas around social media and technology in general since the pandemic began? Many members of our high school Teen council and college social innovators and interns confess to spending more time on social media than they’d like during the pandemic, yet they find it difficult to stop. Knowing that their peers are also online, and the inability to meet up with friends face to face presents a conundrum. Without a boundary between school and home, the ability to distract oneself with social media, YouTube, or Netflix shows is all the more prevalent. One student chose to delete Instagram and limit her “Finsta” or Finstagram to only 40 people, allowing her to connect more authentically with a smaller group. Students also began talking about the pros and cons of video conferencing, choosing synchronous learning over asynchronous learning in the same time slot as teachers and classmates, as long as there were times for breaks. Zoom Fatigue, or the feeling of tiredness, anxiousness or worry with yet another video call. The cognitive overload from time delays, viewing oneself, and staring into the screen without facial cues or automatic body language contributed. Students talked specifically about the new uses of social media and activism during news coverage of George Floyd’s death and Black Lives Matter. The use of the statement “Read the Room” increased, and students who posted personal or curated photos were “Called Out” on their lack of attention to racial justice. One student reflected: In early June social media shifted to a platform for advocating social change and awareness. However, the “all-or-nothing” attitude at the time—that the only acceptable posting was related to social issues, justice etc—made it inevitable that an era of “nothing” followed the era of “all”. I think that the COVID world is making the difference between sustainable and unsustainable changes more apparent, and hopefully we will adjust our attitudes to sustain personal profiles alongside advocating for causes bigger than ourselves in the near future.
―Annie Reynolds, Menlo School ‘22, CA What do you think will be the biggest challenges for high school students heading into this very unconventional Fall semester? This question was answered differently depending on the age of the students. LookUp’s Teen Leadership Council is made up of middle and high school students from a variety of public and private schools. Their greatest challenges were specific to their age and whether their schools were going back in person, hybrid or all distance learning. Those attending boarding school mentioned the challenge of quarantining for two weeks before attending and the uncertainty of wondering if in person learning would shut down again to be sent home again. The return to distance learning, even if only half the time, was disappointing to students because schooling/studying alone in your room became monotonous, lonely and less motivating. The seniors on the Teen Council are applying to college, and the uncertainty of when the pandemic will end is one major challenge. Not being able to visit the campuses, nor knowing if they should take the entrance exams is another. As a senior, one of the most challenging things is the uncertainty of AP and SAT/ACT tests, because these are very stressful and have been greatly impacted. This is a time for us when there is supposed to be a lot going on related to the college process, such as touring schools, and we aren't sure how our college application process might be affected by this strange time.
- Haydn Wolfers, Senior, Piedmont High School, CA As an aside, please fill out the Teen Leadership Council survey if you would like to join them, or if you know of a teen who wants to shift the norms around digital overload for more tech-life balance! What advice would you give to a young person who is just about to start college or enter the workforce in these uncertain times? Some comments from college students, both in college and recently graduated can be summed up in this manner. The world has changed since the onslaught of Covid-19, but it will not always be as it is today. As much as possible, embrace the ways you can study or work remotely, whether it be in your “comfy” clothes, outside in the fresh air, or in a less structured environment. While it’s going to be hard to start college either virtually or in a socially distanced environment, knowing that you and your peers are all in it together could help. Uncertainty is hard, but it will also prepare you for more changes that come up in your lifespan. Although we hear the term “unprecedented” thrown around a lot in the news, the truth is that as you move into this next chapter of your life, every semester, every 4:30pm email from your boss, and every day hanging out with friends (virtually or in person) will be scary, exciting, and yes, unprecedented. So I would encourage you to savor these feelings of uncertainty (the sister of excitement) and be mindful of the fact that whether you spend the next few months on Zoom, in the office, or on the quad they will surely be some of the best months of your life.
―Kojo Edzie, Dartmouth College ‘20, NH Many of the common anxieties of going away to college will be amplified due to the pandemic. How can people experiencing these feelings deal with them in such a way that it doesn’t affect their ability to study or enjoy a social life? Here’s how a few students recently answered this question: It will be harder to have a social life. If they are on campus, many students may need to live in a single without access to a common space or each others’ dorm rooms. I won’t be going to MIT in the fall because they are only bringing seniors on campus. I plan to connect with other MIT first years in the Bay Area. I also hope to rent a house with others in the Bay Area, so we experience our online classes and extracurricular activities together.
―Sophie Reynolds, MIT ‘24, Cambridge, MA Students need to find a sense of belonging, likely through a structured group they can take part in. A great way to do this would be to join a club. As was mentioned in the meeting, it's probably going to be really hard to make friends in classes now because they can't really interact in that space in the same way, but I know clubs and organizations are still trying their best to adapt virtually and foster a sense of community online. I think clubs in general are the easiest way to find a group and that's still a viable option even in the pandemic.
―Jacob Posten, University of Texas Austen ‘21 Do you think there will be any positive changes to our education systems that come out of this period? In this unprecedented time, the quick turn around to distance learning raised significant challenges for schools including the enormity of inequity for certain school districts. Large numbers of students did not have adequate technological devices nor internet capacity to participate equitably as some classmates. There appears to be a much higher awareness of the inequities in education, and some have classified it as another type of institutional racism. Commons Sense Media’s recent report: 2020 Tweens, Teens, Tech, And Mental Health: Coming Of Age in an Increasingly Digital, Uncertain and Unequal world, examines these inequities more closely as well as outlines action steps to improve. It is a great opportunity to reimagine education that reflects the ubiquitous nature of our digital world, and how to utilize technology while also remaining human during the Pandemic and beyond. Some educators warn that human interaction and face to face support should not be sacrificed for more technology. I agree with this as part of LookUp’s mission is to embrace the “Humanness of Things” (a play on words counter to the Internet of Things) How have the teens you work with overcome the disappointment of missing events like proms and graduation ceremonies? Did they come up with any innovative ways to celebrate these special moments? While many seniors expressed great sadness and disappointment that their senior spring disappeared in the way that they always imagined it, here is how a few students found ways to “make the best of it.” “People wore their new dresses because they already had them and took pictures with their dads for Prom.” “We had a Drive-In Graduation with no outside speaker, so more personal with a teacher who knew the class. It was fun to sit on top of the car with my family inside.” “Two seniors in college had a graduation parade in their neighborhood where families sat on their lawns in lawn chairs with balloons and banners, cheering and applauding the graduates.” “One family hosted a graduation party for their son’s closest friends. Tables for each family were set up on the lawn – 6 feet apart – with a distanced celebration.” How have the young people you work with maintained or made new friendships while in social isolation? This is where the power of social media was put to good use. In conversations with several high school and college students, we came up with some key factors. Do something with your friends while on Zoom calls including: Play Pictionary, create PowerPoints about some fun facts about yourself and share, host Hulu and Netflix Parties, and participate in Scavenger Hunts that take you offline in your home, but bring you back together online. Even though video addiction can be a serious problem, balanced video game playing allowed many to stay connected over the phone while they played or on the platform Discord. The power of communication became very important to maintaining relationships because different people had different needs for friendship. If one person wanted to connect more than another, it could create tension and discomfort. Several students talked about learning to communicate these needs with their friends. One thing some really missed was the easy, spontaneous “hang out” times, so some started turning on their Zoom or FaceTime and “did their own thing” while they were connected via a digital device. In order to maintain relationships throughout quarantine my friends and I would schedule weekly zoom calls that would consist of different games, talking to one another about how we were feeling emotionally/ mentally and each week someone would have to pick a new topic to make a powerpoint about. For example, one week was all about which breed of dog our friends were most similar to. These Powerpoints were always a great way to get in a good laugh and forced us to be creative and unique!
- Rebecca Deny, Chapman University ‘21 Could you share some of the LookUp Changemakers’ best tips for focus and studying? As tempting as it is to study with your phone next to you, the proximity of your phone impacts your cognitive ability, memory retention and fluid intelligence. For maximum brain power, study with your phone in another room. This will reduce the temptation to check your phone, multitask and fall down the rabbit hole of mindless scrolling. I recommend treating a day of distance learning the same way you'd treat a regular school day. Wake up early, brush your teeth, wash your face, change out of your pajamas, grab a quick breakfast or snack, and settle down at your desk. Take breaks often: soak in some sun, walk around your house, or call a friend. Most importantly, stay on top of your responsibilities and communicate with your peers and teachers regularly to keep in touch with your learning community. You can do this!
―Aayushi Jain, Lynbrook High School ‘21, CA If possible, do homework with friends. Even when working on different assignments outside and 6+ feet apart, you can emulate the feeling of a productive school environment and enjoy face-to-face social interaction that's hard to come by in a COVID-world. During the uncertainty and stress of junior spring, these "workdates" helped me retain some sanity and sense of normalcy.
Structuring your days similarly to a typical school schedule is an effective way to separate time for working and space for fun. Dedicate an hour or so to each class, during which your phone is in another room, all your materials are easily accessible, and you stay on one subject. Building in breaks to clear your mind or get a snack helps to promote motivation and focus. During lunch, try to distance yourself from screens in hopes of preventing screenaches (aka headaches caused by screen-overload). And for gym? Get outside! I believe that fresh air is crucial for conquering digital learning.
―Aliza Kopans, Arlington High School ‘21 How can family members and educators best support young people this Fall semester? In this unprecedented time of uncertainty and the need for tech to maintain human interactions, tech-life balance is going to be more difficult. What we’ve heard from youth is that they want the research, but they don’t want to be told what to do with their digital lives. They want to be asked. As educators and family members, discussing the role of technology in our own lives is a great place to start. When we share our pain points whether Zoom Fatigue, the addictive lure of following news stories on Twitter, or missing the in person social gatherings, it becomes a community struggle during this Pandemic, rather than an adult telling a young person to “put their phone down.” Then we can ask Gen Z about their own digital lives, pain points and ideas for solutions. Modeling Tech-Life Balance is always the greatest teacher. If you are an educator with distance learning this Fall, hosting wellness breaks during class supports both you and your students. Acknowledging Zoom Fatigue and scheduling 3 minute breaks that can include, a short meditation, a guided stand and stretch sequence, and a chance to jog in place, cameras on or off. For educators alternating online class time with offline tasks throughout the block schedules in Tech-Life Balance. Frequent Break Out sessions to discuss material in smaller groups also helps break up the activity so students aren’t staring at the screen for long periods of time. Digital Detoxes are more difficult during the Pandemic, but short breaks from technology to get outside, go for a walk or bike ride, try a new hobby like gardening or cooking have been top rated suggestions. It also keeps one engaged in the “real” world, socially distanced and with masks. Originally posted on Freedom.
I Tried a LookUp Challenge, And It Improved My Mental Health
By Priya Hariharan, High Schooler and LookUp Challenge Participant My name is Priya Hariharan, I’m 17 years old, and I’m a senior at Homestead High School. Recently, LookUp challenged volunteers to give up social media for a week. As for me, I have given up social media for nearly three months on my own accord. A lot of people asked me why I did it. In my perspective, I saw giving up social media as giving up the connection I had with my friends. So, why would I want to do that? I made this choice when I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Depression makes my life difficult because the overwhelming thoughts in my head make me feel stuck. I find it difficult to talk to people the way I used to be able to talk to them. I saw social media as a way to waste my time and cling to the happiness everyone was experiencing — something I couldn’t find for myself. I was faced with a choice: I could try to become better, or I could just allow my feelings to control me. It’s incredibly easy to let emotions take over — trust me, I know. I want to return to a somewhat stable state, so I made the decision to delete Instagram and Snapchat because I knew it was affecting me negatively. It may not seem like a big decision to some people, but for me, it was hard to accept that I had a problem and that what I was doing could in some way help better my life. When I heard that LookUp.live was conducting a week-long pilot to take a break from social media, I talked to Susan, the co-founder of LookUp, about my experiences. She felt that I could represent LookUp and share how their goal truly does help better mental health because, although I am not fully recovered, I am slowly progressing to a point where I can be stable again, and I know that a small part of this has to do with the choice I made to give up social media. I know that some people reading this have decided not to give up social media. I’m here to challenge that decision by saying that being present is a choice you need to make. You will always lose something when you make a choice, and accepting the risks of the loss is a step you need to take when you give up on social media. Whatever choice you make, make sure that it’s what you really want.
By Haydn Wolfers, Member of the LookUp Youth Leadership Counsel I asked my classmate what she did over the weekend and if she studied for our math test. No, she said, she knew she needed to study, but she went on her phone and lost track of time. I’ve heard this so many times. My generation is one of the first to have cell phones and technology as such a large part of our lives and the problems this causes are not being addressed. I see this everywhere I look: from myself, to my classmates, to the kids I babysit. I became aware of this issue during my sophomore year of high school when Susan Reynolds from LookUp.live (then called Mindhood) visited my school to present about Digital Wellness. She shared how unhealthy habits with phones impact mental health and how prevalent this problem is. Until this point, I hadn’t realized how our phones can make such a negative impact on our lives. This led me to start the first LookUp Club with some friends. Our goal was to raise awareness about Digital Wellness in our high school and having a healthy tech/life balance. We wanted to help our peers (as well as ourselves) develop healthier habits. We hosted some of the first LookUp Challenges at our school. At lunchtime, we set up a table that our classmates would stop by to learn about the variety of options they could choose from to challenge themselves to change their habits. For example, they were encouraged to sleep with their phone outside their room (Sleeping Dog) or take a break from their phone while studying (Busy Bee). It can be very difficult to change habits, but we found that it’s much easier when everyone is doing it together and supporting each other. When I began to work on my Girl Scout Gold Award Project during my junior year, I wanted to continue to address this issue, but from a new angle. I decided to focus on teaching upper-elementary students about Digital Wellness! I hoped that if they were aware of the issues before they developed too many bad habits, they wouldn’t have to try to change these habits later. I developed a lesson for them, similar to what Susan Reynolds taught my class, but targeted at a much younger age. The lesson consisted of watching a video about teenagers’ relationships with their phones, so the children could become aware of the issue. Next we discussed their reactions, experiences, and tips to improve habits in the future. Tips included not being on their phones while with friends and being aware that what’s posted on social media isn’t the reality. The 5th graders I visited were not aware of how problematic phones can become and were very interested in learning about it. We finished the lesson by decorating small burlap sacks to become “Phone Sleeping Bags,” which would serve as an extra reminder for them to not use their phones when they shouldn’t, as well as to remind them of what they learned in the lesson. Unfortunately, after visiting only two classrooms, the coronavirus hit and my plan to visit classrooms could not continue. However, I didn’t want to stop spreading the message because it’s more important while quarantining than ever, as everyone is spending so much time using technology. To continue spreading the message, I made infographics and spoke on several virtual panels to share my perspective. Once it became clear that school wouldn’t open back up for a while, I decided to convert the lesson I had made to become virtual, because I still wanted the students to learn about this important topic. My lesson now consists of the same short video I showed in class, with questions to be filled out in a google form. The lesson can be done as a family or class by discussing the questions, or it can be completed individually through personal reflection. Although I think the lesson is not as impactful when it is not in person, now that it is virtual it can reach a wider audience of kids all over the country, instead of only in my school district. I’m so glad that I’ve learned about digital wellness. It is extremely important in our lives, yet it does not receive the attention it deserves. My own tech/life balance has improved immensely as I’ve been spreading the message to others. I hope that I can continue to improve and help others become aware of the importance of developing healthy habits with technology and learn how to do so. Originally published on ScreenFree.org.
Teens Are Missing Out on Social Development—But They Don’t Have To Be
By Jacob Posten, Strategic Communications and Development Intern at LookUp Technology has created boundless possibilities in recent years, allowing us to unlock our creative potential and tackle old problems in new ways. We’ve made great strides in the medical field, gained more information about environmental waste, and used data more efficiently than ever before. Its effects haven’t all been positive, though: Gen Z is experiencing unparalleled social isolation and a regression in emotional intelligence. As more and more socialization among young people moves to online platforms, the ever-important nuances of face-to-face communication are lost in translation. Kids growing up in this digital age can experience almost everything through a screen. Whether they’re sharing a laugh, catching up on each other’s lives, or getting into a heated argument, social media is where teens usually talk. What happens, then, when conversations become too emotional or complex to work out through a series of Tweets or text messages? Oftentimes, the conflict results in both parties walking away angry at each other without having fully communicated how they feel or what the other person can do to fix the issue. The process of emotional maturation is more difficult now than ever. Instead of learning to cope with their problems in direct and healthy ways, young people have learned to avoid conflict by blocking their friends or scrolling through their phones searching for some easy form of instant gratification. That being said, not all hope is lost. Here are a few key actions you can take right now to promote positive emotional development in children: 1. Advocate for face-to-face communication when possible. Especially now, this is easier said than done. However, there are still ways to facilitate this kind of interaction virtually. A video chat through phones or computers allows for better transmission of messages—including facial cues, tonal shifts, and body language—than social media does. 2. Teach kids how the platform impacts the message. It’s easy to engage in an argument on Twitter or Instagram, but conflicts using such platforms can easily spiral out of control. When this happens, the information is usually too complex to be conveyed properly through social media. Rather than escalating a complicated conversation on a limited platform, it’s more effective to move the conversation to a platform built for higher-level communication. Face-to-face is best, followed by video chat and phone calls, with written text coming last. 3. Encourage them to write about their thoughts and feelings. There’s no better way to explore how you really feel about something than to write about it. This is especially effective in conflict resolution, as it gives time to cool off and come to a deeper understanding of one’s emotions in order to explain them more effectively. Though times may be strenuous, there are still things we can do to grow and make progress toward being better versions of ourselves. Consider taking the time to talk to teens in your life about how they can improve their relationship with technology and the world around them. You might find yourself learning a thing or two as well. ___ Jacob Posten is a rising senior studying marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He currently works as a Strategic Communications and Development Intern at LookUp, writing web content and developing marketing strategy. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with friends and cooking new recipes.
By Rachael Galindo, Student at The University of Arizona and Co-Creator of Stick 2 Reality In today’s society, it’s hard to imagine a world without technology. Technology is used almost everywhere we go to improve communication and productivity. Although technology does come with its benefits, it has quite a few downfalls. As a member of Gen Z, I adapted to and have grown up using digital devices. My generation doesn’t know a world without cell phones and advanced technology. We don’t know a world where communication had to be either in-person or through a home phone. Most of all, we don’t know a world where social media and TikTok videos aren’t used as a pastime. I often wonder what a world would be like without so many technology distractions. Would people be happier? Would the world be less connected? Would relationships be more genuine? The LookUp movement is one I really felt I could get behind because I understand that there is an issue with the overuse of technology within Gen Z. Technology overuse is a problem I struggle with myself: sometimes, I get lost in TikTok videos for hours without realizing how much time has passed me by. In the times that I overuse technology, I could have picked up a new skill or hobby. If I could gain back the time I spent watching TikTok, I would practice my singing and artistic skills. I see the most misuse of technology when I’m with my friends. Most of the time when we hang out, my friends ignore me because they are so consumed by their phones. Not only do I lose quality time with my friends, but also I feel extremely disrespected. A part of me also feels sympathetic because they are too glued to technology to even realize it’s a problem affecting their real-life relationships. They are more comfortable staring at a little screen than looking up and taking in the environment around them. What frustrates me the most is knowing that there was once a world where people did not have to worry about being ignored by a phone, and I never got to be a part of that world. Sometimes, I make a deal with my friends in order to gain back face-to-face hangouts: I make us all promise to put our phones away and lock them up for the duration of the hangout. When my team and I were assigned to the LookUp movement through our club, Blue-Chip, we had no idea how we were going to tackle the issue. We brainstormed together as a group to try and think of our own ways that remind us to limit our phone usage. We also felt it was important to limit the idea from being some form of application on technology. If the idea was to limit tech use, then it made sense for our solution not to be tech-based. Finally, after brainstorming for a couple of days, we landed on the idea of using stickers as a reminder to stay off our phones. Stickers are everywhere and are widely popular among members of Gen Z. The more colorful, creative, funny, and interesting the sticker, the more likely we were to see that sticker on every laptop, cell phone, and water bottle. As a team, we decided that every sticker should have the words “Look Up” incorporated into the design as a reminder to take a break from technology. During our sticker ideation process, we also decided that our stickers will be subscription-based, and we will come out with new monthly stickers to keep the message relevant. We also felt it was important to come up with a way for others to get involved. Since none of my teammates or myself are artists, we’re challenging others to get involved by submitting a hand drawn sticker of their own for a chance to have their sticker featured for the month! As my team and I continue to bring our idea to the surface for Gen Z, we are running our first prototype sticker test run on our friends to see how we can improve our idea. In order to track if the stickers have an influence on our friend’s technology usage, we will be using a pre- and post-sticker questionnaire. We as a team are excited to see how our idea progresses, and we want to remind others to Stick 2 Reality!
I Created an App to Solve Anxiety-Driven Insomnia, And It's Super Cute
By Timothy Yang, Student at Dartmouth and Co-Creator of Sleepy Pets Since my freshman year of college, my mother has suffered from a severe case of chronic insomnia. Anyone who has had the misfortune of undergoing an all-nighter knows the horrible aftermath: you’re irritable, your eyes are dry, your muscles feel like jelly, and your body craves rest. I was constantly heartbroken seeing my mom suffer several consecutive nights without a single second of sleep, with no amount of medication or psychotherapy putting as much as a dent in the illness. It was a vicious cycle of stress, lack of sleep, greater stress, and even less sleep. Although not as extreme as my mother’s, sleep deprivation affected me too: I was losing hours of sleep each night scrolling through hundreds of popular Reddit posts and would wake up with regret. Unfortunately, I was not alone. My friends also shared similar experiences. Tim would play video games almost every night even if he had class the next morning, resulting in lower focus in class due to sleep inertia. Winston would often work late into the night and compensate for the lack of sleep by taking midday naps; consequently, he constantly felt tired and anxious. The sleeping troubles don’t stop there—according to statistics, 7 out of 10 college students reported sleep deprivation. Furthermore, sleep deprivation is linked with a lower GPA and worse mental health. This is the story of how the Sleepy Pets team came to win Dartmouth’s first-ever Designathon as well as a tribute to a group of friends arduously working to alleviate the issue of anxiety-driven insomnia—something that is relevant to me on a personal level. For me, Sleepy Pets isn’t just a fun design project. It’s a way to battle the widespread problem of sleep deprivation on every level, from young people with distracting technology to people with serious insomnia. It’s a potential cure that may someday help my mom and others like her finally experience proper rest again. How It Started It was around January, the winter of my junior year at Dartmouth College, when my friend Winston sent me a link for an event called Designathon 2020: Unplugged. The premise sounded interesting enough: advertised as Dartmouth’s first Designathon, the event was a 2-day design competition where thinkers, creators, and change-makers would come together to solve the problem of tech-life balance. Admittedly, the $5000 prize grant written in big, bold letters on the poster was too enticing to ignore. Consequently, we registered as a boisterous team of four: me, Tim, Maxine, and Winston. We were already well-acquainted with one another, especially after spending our sophomore summer together, slaving away day and night in the soul-crushing software development course CS50. In many ways, we were a perfectly homogeneous group: all computer science majors, all Dartmouth juniors, all from international upbringings, and all with a playful sense of humor. The Designathon Begins Sleepy Pets originated from a dramatic misunderstanding. During dinner on the first day of the designathon, Winston mumbled something about a “slide deck” for the idea presentation. Amid the noisy environment, all I heard was “Psyduck,” a character from the popular Japanese video game franchise Pokémon. Coincidentally, I had just recently watched the movie Detective Pikachu. By far, the best character in it was the “adorkable” Psyduck, a duck-inspired Pokémon who explodes under stress. I playfully proposed (a bit sarcastically) that we design an app where Psyduck appears on screen and gets visibly stressed when the user is using their phone for too long, especially since the Designathon was meant to promote a healthy tech-life balance. We all laughed, thinking it was a funny idea, but brushed it off as a casual remark. We spent the evening doing initial research regarding tech-life imbalance. In the end, we decided to focus on tackling the issue of sleep deprivation. We have all encountered issues with sleep-related technology overuse, whether it’s blue light-induced insomnia or using our smartphones to distract ourselves from difficult emotions such as stress and anxiety. We joked again with the Psyduck idea since we could easily use it to combat the sleep issue. We wanted to make sure we gave a wide array of ideas serious consideration before choosing any one idea, so we were each tasked with brainstorming and coming up with 15 ideas that night. The next morning, we each wrote down all our ideas on posters pasted around the room, and used dot voting to narrow down the list after a brief introduction of our ideas. Of those 60 ideas, we narrowed down to around 10, and from that, we further narrowed it down to 2 ideas that we would make prototypes from in order to user-test. These were the final ideas: 1) A gamification of the sleeping process by having a virtual pet that prompts the user to sleep. Inspired by the Psyduck idea, the sleep app would have the pet display emotions of nervousness and distress as the night goes on, hopefully prompting the users to sleep by triggering caring emotions. The pet will also prompt the user with a dialogue to further persuade the users to sleep. 2) A smart box that creates a soothing nighttime routine by playing calm music or white noise, producing a sleep-inducing scent, and offering a guided bedtime meditation routine, all with an automatic turn-off function. After deciding on our ideas and grabbing some lunch food provided by the Designathon, we quickly made our way to Berry Library (Dartmouth’s main library) to create the prototypes and user test them to our target population—namely, college students. We were racing against time. After all, in less than 3 hours the Designathon would end and we would need to deliver a pitch to a panel of judges. We quickly storyboarded both of our ideas (drawing the ideas out in markers, comic-book style) and presented them to several students in FFB, (First Floor Berry), the area where students who want to socialize study. To our delight, both of the ideas received positive feedback, with many of the participants acknowledging that they suffered from sleeping issues. After some debate among the team, we settled for the first idea and named it “Sleepy Pets.” We also decided to add the white noise element. We focused our effort in drafting a more detailed prototype with UI (user interface) elements and a walkthrough of how the app would work, even designing a cute cat in pixel art and adding animation. The Birth of Sleepy Pets 1.0 Energized by the positive results of our initial user testing, we scoured Berry Library for more unsuspecting students to test our magnificent creation—Sleepy Pets 1.0. We were confident that participants would be blown away by the overwhelming cuteness of our design. After all, who wouldn’t want to be put to bed by an adorable virtual pet, accompanied by a dash of celestial white noise? Quite unexpectedly, the second round of testers were harsh critics that attacked us with wave after wave of negative feedback. The UI looked a bit clunky. The benefits of the app were unclear. Sure, the Sleepy Pet on the main screen looked cute, but the idea of the pet becoming increasingly sad may induce further anxiety for the user who was already struggling to go to sleep. In short, Sleepy Pets was more of an unnecessary distraction than a helpful tool to encourage healthy sleeping habits. I glanced down at my watch. Less than sixty minutes remained before the pitch competition, and we still needed to prepare the pitch deck. Tensions were rising within the team. Maxine and Winston stubbornly refused to give up on the idea of Sleepy Pets even though it contradicted our initial intentions. Tim wanted to switch back to our discarded idea, the guided sleeping ritual with a scented music box. My heart was pounding, and I felt sick to my stomach. It was time to calm down and regather our thoughts. After some brief breathing exercises with the team, we reviewed our current progress. Sleepy Pets was cute, but major revisions were necessary to prevent it from becoming a distraction. The scented music box was boring but achieved our intended goal of reducing user reliance on tech, especially because of its automatic turn-off function. Suddenly, the solution dawned upon us—why don’t we combine the best parts of the two ideas? After all, the testers loved the cute design of Sleepy Pets and the pragmatism of the scented music box. We scrambled to revise our prototype, adding several features such as automatically limiting access to certain features of their phone and dimming the screen’s brightness after the user initiates an encouraging sleep ritual guided by their favorite Sleepy Pet. The user may set a bedtime, and the pet will begin the process of shutting down the phone while exhibiting cute sleepy behaviors to further prompt the users to sleep. White noise or calm music will continue to play in the background according to the user’s preference, and the Sleepy Pet will be up and ready to greet the user in the morning after a good night’s sleep. The Sleepy Pet will also be responsible for reporting sleep data and rewarding the user for achieving pre-defined milestones. Within the final heart-racing, half-hour sprint, we swiftly redesigned our UI, went out for last-minute feedback, and sprinted back to our headquarters to polish our slide deck. As the judges called our team, aptly named Team Zzzz, we confidently walked up to the stage to unveil Sleepy Pets, a battle-worn trophy that not only testified to the creativity of our minds but also to the resilience of our friendship. Our grit exists due to our deeply personal mission: to help people experiencing anxiety-induced insomnia finally get a good night’s sleep.
Tech-Life Balance is More Important Than Ever. Here Is One Way to Achieve It
By Rijul Arora, Thought Leader at LookUp During these unprecedented times, the line differentiating our online and offline lives has become extremely blurry. As schools and workplaces prepare for more remote work environments, technology has become a more critical part of our lives than ever. Because of this, many people are struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We’re struggling to use our technology intentionally rather than passively. Now, consider this interesting statistic: the average human being picks up his phone 126 times a day. Considering that the average human sleeps for 7 hours, we pick up our phones more than 7 times in an hour (126 times/17 waking hours). This statistic includes only phones, and it assumes we are living under normal circumstances. If we include other screens like laptops and tablets and account for these current unprecedented times when screen time is at an all-time high, this number goes up significantly. Does “picking up your phone 7 times in an hour” seem like unintentional use of technology? If you don’t think so, consider how the following would sound if you told it to your family member: “Hey [family member], I’m picking up my phone to check my social media/email/game 7 times in an hour.” If there is one key step you can take to transform your technology usage right now, it is to take a deep breath and ask your intention every time you pick up your screen. Just take a quick one-minute break next time you have the urge to pick up your screen. Take a deep breath and ask yourself, What is my intention behind picking up the screen that I’m going to use? Is it really urgent? Can it wait? What am I losing out on if I pick up this screen right now? It is in these small moments of reflection that strengthen our relationships. It is in these small moments of intention that we prioritize listening to our family. These small moments allow us to appreciate the vast beauty around us. Remember, even if you sometimes fail to be intentional, it’s okay. Don’t be harsh on yourself. These are unprecedented times, and it’s important to be self-compassionate. You always have another moment to be intentional and transform your relationships. But, in the next moment, don’t forget to ask yourself, What is my intention? Would I prefer to build an unhealthy relationship with my screen by picking it up multiple times in an hour or a healthy relationship with my family, allowing me to appreciate the beauty around me? The choice is ours. The intention is ours. What do you “intend” to do?
I’m 15, and I Choose to Use a Flip Phone — Here’s Why
by Indigo Mudbhary It was a crisp, fall afternoon and school had just ended for the day. I was talking with a friend, and I realized I needed to call my mom to find out whether she was still picking me up. After excusing myself to call her, I pulled out my phone and dialed my mom’s number. As I put the phone against my ear, my friend’s jaw had dropped. “You have a flip phone?!” They exclaimed in an almost outraged tone. My friend looked absolutely and completely shocked, as if a pink elephant had just appeared in front of them. “I mean, if you have a flip phone, how do you even live?” They exclaimed in a tone of voice that seemed to imply a mix of shock and even slight anger. Before I go any further, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Indigo Mudbhary. I’m 15 years old, I live in San Francisco, California, and I’m a pretty typical teenager — except for the fact that I have a flip phone. When I was in seventh grade, everyone in my grade was getting a phone. I desperately wanted one too, and I begged my parents for a cell phone at every possible moment. Whenever there was a really pretty sunset, I’d say things like, “If only I had a cell phone to take a picture of this!” Whenever I was late for school, I’d say, “If only I had a smartphone that I could use as an alarm!” After all my begging, my parents finally gave in and got me a phone! Well, this phone had one caveat: it was a flip phone. At first I was devastated, just wanting a regular smart phone so I could blend in with my classmates, taking selfies and doing all the cool things that come with a smartphone. But now, almost three years later, having a flip phone is really, truly my own choice. The fact that I choose to have a flip phone surprises a lot of people. We’re in an age where we have this awesome new tool available to us that can communicate with friends, call a cab, look up information, and a whole host of other things. So I get it — why would I purposely choose to give up all of that? Well, let me share why I continue to choose my flip phone over a smartphone. 1. I’ve mastered the art of feeling bored My flip phone has nothing fun on it. Its only function is to call people — even texting on my flip phone doesn’t really work. While other people have all sorts of interesting things on their smartphones, the most exciting thing on my flip phone is probably the calculator app. But, I’ve found that the complete and utter lack of entertainment on my phone has actually proven to be helpful because I know how to be bored, something a lot of us have forgotten how to do. We have our smart phones on us all the time, and whenever a situation is boring, we can simply pull out our smart phones and pull up something more interesting to pass the time. I don’t have that option, so I’ve had to learn how to deal with being bored. When waiting for the bus, while other people pull out their smartphones and try to get stuff done, I’m looking at the world around me, noticing things that people on their phones probably wouldn’t. This skill of being able to be bored has helped me in countless situations, and I find that my friends are much more likely to be bored by something and finding something to be tedious. But me? I’m used to it, and I’m grateful for that. 2. I’m a better listener, which makes me a better friend Now, I’m not claiming that people who have smartphones are bad friends. That would be outrageous. But for me, I’ve found that I tend to be much better at listening to people when I don’t have a distracting device in hand. Smartphones are so exciting that it’s very easy to quickly glance at your phone or be distracted by a notification while talking to a friend. Although you may be quickly glancing at your phone, this makes the other person feel not listened to, and I’ve found that people have told me I’m a very good listener, and I attribute this mostly to my flip phone. My phone is always in my bag, on silent, and can’t distract me from listening to the people I care about, making them not only feel listened to but also making me feel like a good friend. 3. I’m more creative because I notice the world around me Again, I’m not making the claim that all people who have smartphones are less creative. This is just what I have found to be true in my personal experience. Because our phones have so many features, I’ve found that our phones are no longer just devices we use to call people. Oftentimes, when we go to look up something on our smartphones, we end up mindlessly scrolling through Facebook for the next hour, wondering where the time went. Because I don’t have that option, I’m much more attentive to the world around me, noticing things that people who are immersed in their phones might not necessarily notice themselves. The world is a beautiful place, and I find that I’m far more likely to notice it when I don’t have a shiny gadget in my back pocket. This gives me more time for just me and my brain, to notice the world around me and think about life. For this reason, I’ve found I’m far more creative and much more likely to come up with good ideas when I’m not glued to a screen. 4. I’m more patient and don’t expect instant gratification With a cell phone, you can immediately get what you want whenever, whether that’s ordering an Uber or quickly looking up the answer to something. It’s very easy to immediately access whatever you want to access. With a flip phone, I don’t have that ability to immediately access things; when I don’t know the answer to a question, I simply have to admit, “I don’t know,” and look up the answer later in the day when I get home to my computer. I’ve found that this makes waiting for things -- in the line at the grocery store, for a bus, for a friend who is late -- much easier because I’m more used to not having things immediately at an arms reach away and I’m less likely to grow irritable at people for wasting my time. 5. My real-life experiences are richer and more rewarding I’ve found that even the struggles of having a flip phone have had good impacts on my life as well. For example, in certain parts of the city I live in, my flip phone cell service doesn’t work as well, so I’ve sometimes had to ask my friends to borrow their phones to call my parents to pick me up or tell them when I’m getting home. One of my current best friends is actually someone who I met because I asked to use their phone once. Another downside of having a flip phone can be that I can’t easily access social media. But, I’ve found this to be a good thing, because when I use social media I have to go through the whole tedious process of logging into Instagram or Facebook on a computer, causing me to spend less time on social media and more time in the real world and with the people I actually care about. Even the downsides, I’ve found, have had positive benefits too. So what’s the point of all that I’m saying? Well, in a world where almost everyone has a smart phone and being connected to the web 24 hours 7 days a week is emphasized as the goal, I’m showing you a different perspective, that sometimes being unplugged can be, well, awesome. So I challenge you to go one day without your smart phone. It will be difficult, and you’ll find yourself struggling to remain unplugged, but I challenge you to do it. You will find yourself noticing more things, paying closer attention to the people you love, and being more present overall. It may seem difficult, but if I can live without a smartphone, I challenge you to try it for a day. You may be surprised what happens when you take a second to look up.
How Young People and Celebrities Have Become Digital Protesters
by Lexi King-Shaw, Community Engagement Manager at LookUp LookUp’s Black Youth Matter campaign is about highlighting and amplifying the voices of black youth who are doing great work for the Black Lives Matter movement. One of LookUp’s key principles is that a movement affecting young people should be led by young people. The Black Lives Matter movement is no exception. As a millennial myself, watching the events of police brutality and senseless killings against black folks unfold on my timeline felt extremely personal. Initially, the pain felt overwhelming yet unfortunately familiar. This pain hits me every single time another black person is slain in such a horrific way by those who should be protecting and serving. In the wake of COVID and my personal situation, I felt I was grasping at a way to be able to protest while maintaining physical distance from others. I found comfort by the support of my own communities online, namely K-pop Twitter. I found an abundance of love and support online within the fandoms I follow. Inspired by other black youth who are organizing, marching, and protesting, I felt compelled to use what voice I had through my personal fan account as well as my professional role as Community Engagement Manager here at LookUp. In essence, I merged my two worlds. The political became the personal and professional. I moved beyond a retweet to make a tangible difference. This is the reality for many young people right now: if they don’t feel comfortable going out to live protests whether due to health concerns or immunocompromised family members, there’s still a way to protest online. Digital protest is a revolution in itself. Using my voice online proved to be quite powerful. Fandoms came together to drive out hateful hashtags such as #WhiteLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter from harmful and problematic areas on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and other platforms. We banded together digitally to make a real-life difference. I am proud that I was able to digitally protest. I gave tips to protesters while they were being rounded up. Other digital protestors and I also provided live updates and videos to warn protestors when ICE raids were happening several states away. I was one of millions to spread information and promote awareness, through both educating the masses about the problem, and aiding fellow protestors in their endeavors to keep them safe. This movement is a testament to the power of the collective. Using social media as a tool for social change is really about finding and using the voice you have. It’s about amplifying others and organizing digitally and around a specific cause. In the case of Black Lives Matter, youth have been sharing and compiling resources to help spread awareness, knowledge, and opportunities to donate. These lists and threads included donation links, podcasts explaining the black experience in America, and YouTube videos whose ads donate to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m amazed by fans from all over the world working tirelessly to drown out hate. Fans of the group BTS, otherwise known as ARMY, supported black fans with the trend #WeLoveYouBlackARMY. The support overcame language barriers as fans translated and shared their support in multiple languages. It felt like receiving a hug from millions of people from all over the world. Although I’m extremely touched, I should not be surprised since advocacy is one of the unique characteristics of this fandom. The artists themselves advocate for youth, even going so far as to speak at The UN in partnership with UNICEF to end violence against youth. BTS is one of many famous artists speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, because they understand the influence of black culture on their music. They also know that it’s time to use their voice as youth allies since their fan base includes black and marginalized peoples. One statement from someone with millions of followers can make a huge difference. As I’ve merged my personal and digital worlds, I’ve found a sense of purpose and strength in a time where it would be understandable to be swallowed by grief and fear. Instead of defeated, I feel hopeful. My hope stems from the power of youth activism, youth voices, and youth’s use of social media for social change. It’s more than just K-pop, and it’s more than just digital activism: it's a part of being a member of a digital community that has impact far beyond a retweet.
If you want a week full of mindfulness, unplugging, and a clearer mind, this challenge is just what you need. Five days can make all the difference. by Susan Reynolds, Co-Founder of LookUp Mindful Monday Morning When you wake up think about what you’re grateful for, or looking forward to, or what you want to accomplish that day, rather than instinctively reading a text or an email. It’s so easy to wake up on a Monday morning, reach for your phone, and shift subconsciously from "weekend mode" to "work mode" without setting your tone for the day. One way to make mornings more mindful is to begin is one of gratitude. When you wake up, think about what you’re grateful for, looking forward to, or what you want to accomplish that day rather than instinctively reading a text or an email. Then notice any differences in your mood and thought patterns throughout the day. If you want to take this challenge a step further, you can envision the object of your gratitude and spend a few minutes in mindful meditation or quiet solitude. You could even sip your coffee or juice in silence without doing anything but your thoughts. This task is easier said than done. It seems simple, but if you’re used to jumping into the day without taking those few moments with yourself, it may be more challenging than you expect. Intentional Tech Tuesday Take a mindful break from your phone or computer today. You can do it once or several times but take at least 5 intentional minutes away from technology today. One suggestion is when you put your phone down or step away from your computer, go find a quiet place. Sit quietly and look around you. When was the last time you experienced silence, solitude and stillness? Now close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Then your feet on the ground. Then your thoughts. If you get carried away with a thought, notice where it took you. Was it a creative thought that had time to emerge away from other sources. Now bring your attention back to your breath and your feet. Notice any changes that begin to occur during this time. Consider how often you are away from some type of external stimulus during your busy day. One of the drawbacks of a 24/7 connected life is the lack of opportunity to be alone with ourselves, a time with no external input. When we walk in nature, we often take a phone for GPS directions or to take pictures. When we go for a run, we wear headphones to listen to music or a podcast or check our exercise statistics. When we wait in line, we use the time to catch up on emails and texts. Digitally-Well Wednesday When you use your phone today, think about your posture, where are your shoulders, are you straining your neck? Sit up. Feel your feel on the floor, your back against the chair or supported by your spine. Where are your hands? Today, be overly aware of your body. Have you heard of “Tech Neck?” It’s becoming a real thing. How many times have you noticed yourself hunched over your computer or your phone? When you become aware, sit up straight and breathe very deeply. The other problem with using a phone or computer is the way you shorten your breath. When you are not able to take in full breaths, your bring your nervous system on high alert, shortening the rest and relax response that comes from full deep breaths. Today as you become aware of your physical habits with your phone, take moments to breathe deeply. This is also a great time to take a 5 minute tech break to meditate. The simple act of closing your eyes, feeling your feet and following your breath, resets any tension in your body, and thus your nervous system. Thankful Thursday Gratitude reduces stress and is proven to make us happier. Today, take out a journal or open to a fresh page in your notebook and hand write 10 things you’re grateful for. When you stop to consider what you are grateful for, you bring yourself into the present moment which is said to increase happiness and joy. If you add a splash of gratitude for you day, in that moment, the neuropathways in your brain respond. It’s almost magical. Oprah Winfrey began keeping a daily gratitude journal and encouraged many others to do the same thing. What if all social media influencers, celebrities whether musicians, gamers, media stars, or revered athletes began to share their gratitude? If you express gratitude for another, the benefits are amplified. Then if you actually share this gratitude with one you are grateful for their lives are equally enhanced. Many have said that writing a letter and reading it to the person was one of the most meaningful moments of his life. Face-to-Face Friday Today, when you’re talking with a friend consider whether you use texting or face to face more. What would it be like to talk face to face a little more frequently, and text a little less often? How many times have you been in a conversation with someone about your phone, about people and their phones, or commented that everyone is looking down at their phones? Many people casually say, “I’m so addicted to my phone,” but leave it at that, but what does this actually mean? Did you know that technology companies have hired the best neuroscientists and software engineers to make our devices as “sticky” as possible? Each year they become more adept and successful keeping us hooked. They want our attention and data. This may sound extreme, but research has proven it is true, and there are many people working to shift the technology companies, but that will take time. Instead, we can become wiser to what they are doing, and begin to take the control back, but it’s really hard to do alone. The first step is to put your phone down and talk to people face to face. Face to face conversations, absent of a phone in sight, deepens the conversation, builds empathy and results in more satisfying and fulfilling time together. Originally published on Medium.