LookUp and Thrive Global Announce the “LookUp to Thrive” Writing ChallengeAmplify Your Voice to Adv
Enter the LookUp to Thrive Writing Challenge and become a published Thought Leader presented to you by Thrive Global on Campus and LookUp. The documentary, The Social Dilemma, rang the alarm bells about the detrimental effects of living in our digital world. Technology’s promise to keep us connected has given rise to a host of unintended consequences that are catching up with us. The current COVID-19 pandemic is adding to the complexity of the problems with online learning and social distancing. LookUp, a fast-growing nonprofit, is committed to providing opportunities for Gen Z to create solutions to these issues and more for a healthier and more humane digital world. Are you an activist with a desire to bring about positive change? Do you have solutions for digital overload, social isolation and loneliness? Do you want to mobilize your peers to work toward a healthier and more humane digital world? Do you have ideas about using tech for good and digital activism? We want to hear from you! When you think of activists or advocates who are changing the world, do you think of those who are writing, blogging, and speaking as change agents? We do, and we want to share the “LookUp to Thrive” Writing Challenge with you. In the words of Ella Katz, ThriveGlobal Editor-at-large from USC, listen to why your voice matters and how you can use your words to inspire change for a positive digital world. We are looking for writers who are interested in sharing their solutions for: Digital overload, social isolation and loneliness and the need for solutions to the mental health crisis among youth. The negative power of the Attention Economy and the algorithmic design and the need for ethical design. The power of technology for good and the need for digital activism. Do you have solutions? We want to hear about them! Please submit your blog entry here. One winner and two runners up of the LookUp to Thrive Writing Challenge will be awarded the following: Their blogs will be announced as a winner in the ThriveGlobal newsletter, featured on the Thrive Global platform, shared on Thrive Global and LookUp social media, and promoted by LookUp. They will be invited to become members of the LookUp Leadership Lab as vital members of our global community. They will have the opportunity to work for 6 months together, from February 1 to June 30, on advancing the social movement toward a healthier and more humane digital world. They will join the 12 winning teams from the LookUp StartUp competition. Interviewed on the Everyday Endorphins podcast by Thrive writer, Stella Stephanopoulos, Thrive Global Editor-at-Large at Washington University at St. Louis. Become a featured chapter in LookUp’s upcoming book. Again, please submit your blog entry here. Submissions due by January 4, 2021
From FINSTAS to RINSTAS: Social Media and Its Impact on Young Women and Girls
One of the panels at the LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit was moderated by Diana Angelini, a YoPro (a.k.a. young professional) from BlackRock, who led a lively discussion with youth panelists, Soumiya Sivasathiyanathan, Hailey Vallabh, Lena Grundhoefer, and Olivia Schultz. Does social media make you feel different or left out? You are not alone. This unique panel convenes young women who are willing to take a stance against major corporations and tackle misogynist algorithms with the young girls who have been negatively impacted by social media. This candid conversation will empower young women and even men to look beyond how they're perceived through the lens of social media. This panel is brought to you by BlackRock's Women's Initiative Network (WIN). This powerful panel of young women ranging from high school, college, and post-grad share their insights and research on why technology and social media disproportionately impact females with expectations of beauty and the objectification that has increased with distance learning, video conferencing, and social distancing. Less time engaged in real-time and real-life, causes all youth to spend more time looking at their own image on the screen. Olivia Schultz from Colorado College shares her research on the impact of Zoom beautification and self-view on girls, while Lena Grundhoefer shares strategies for shifting from the curated to the real on social media. Hailey Vailbh and Soumiya Sivasathiyanathan share their insights working in STEM including the gender disparity and bias from algorithmic design and the ways it impacts mental health, especially young girls who are going on social media at younger and younger ages. The 40 minutes session concludes with the panels' below tips: “Top Ten Tips for Freeing Girls and Women to be Their Own Best Selves (not dictated by algorithms, filters, and comparison) 1. Limit social time to 30-60 minutes per day. 2. Set intentions and goals for life outside social media 3. Identify whether you're scrolling passively or making genuine connections 4. Get outside perspectives on the world and see the bigger picture 5. Take actions as a family 6. Create body positivity discussions 7. Normalize discussions about social media and its effects 8. FINSTAS - RINSTAS (eliminate fake, make it REAL!) 9. Use Screen Time settings 10. Educate girls about the false reality of photoshop and filters The future is now and the future looks bright with young women leading the way!
Gen Z accepted the call to action and launched a social movement at the LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit By Carolyn Lovvoll, Marketing and Engagement Intern at LookUp Several hundred youth advocates and allies from 35 countries gathered this past week for the first LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit, which was organized and run by LookUp’s Teen Leadership Council. From Argentina to India, Cambridge to Menlo Park, digital natives rallied around a shared vision and call to action for a healthier and more humane digital world. Jeff Orlowski, the award-winning director of The Social Dilemma - and Tristan Harris, our hero, and pioneer of humane technology - inspired us with their unique insights into how we can create a youth-led movement to solve this global dilemma. So, what did we learn at the Summit? That youth are truly leading and advancing the movement for humane technology forward, as noted by panelist Adin Helfand, “From the moderator to the panelists to the attendees, seeing so many poised young adults speaking passionately and describing the measurable effect they accomplished was really inspirational and made me want to get more involved in public advocacy.” The Summit was truly an example of youth leading and inspiring youth. From startups to TED Talks, these young leaders are already taking action and creating change. More than 65 youth speakers and moderators from universities and high schools from eight different countries spoke candidly about topics of deep concern to Gen Z such as Ethical Tech Design, Mental Health, Truth, and Negativity. As Columbia student and panelist Katie Santamaria noted, "doing something simply to get a photo of it to post on Instagram, changes the entire purpose behind doing activities with friends. It shifts it from being an intrinsically joy-inducing activity to something that’s becoming performative even when you’re offline." In addition to the fabulous youth leaders, Jeff Orlowski and Tristan Harris both addressed youth attendees, many of whom view the two as role models. Orlowski, an award-winning filmmaker, and activist encouraged the youth advocates to think critically about their legacy and their impact on others. “How do you want to use your time on this planet, ” Orlowski asked. “How can you use your time to make a positive impact and to help others make a positive impact? “Because if you can scale your impact not just in the work that you do directly but in the inspiration of others and in partnership with others...that’s how radical transformational change can happen.” “If you can scale your impact not just in the work that you do directly but in the inspiration of others and in partnership with others...that’s how radical transformational change can happen.” Orlowski’s keynote inspired youth from around the globe. One thanked Jeff for “spurring a regenerative movement that builds beauty for tomorrow on our planet and in our communities!” In addition to Orlowski’s keynote, Tristan Harris, former Google Ethicists and Co-Founder of The Center for Humane Technology, led a Call To Action for the Youth Movement, asking youth attendees, “What are the new social norms, the new ways of being with each other, that we can do collectively, not just by ourselves, to solve this problem?” Harris firmly believes that youth will lead the movement for humane technology because they are “on the frontlines of dealing with these issues every single day.” This collective of Gen Z and young Millennial advocates agrees and has already taken steps toward change. Several groups have developed 90/90 Commitments to Action, which they will collectively achieve in the next 90 days. Ongoing Monthly MeetUps have been scheduled for youth and their allies, while regional Action Groups are in development. The Summit platform will remain open and the LookUp Global Network has been launched on LinkedIn. Susan Reynolds, Co-Founder of LookUp, is feeling hopeful. “The Summit is just the start of this youth-led initiative to create a healthier and more humane digital world, and we believe this will continue to grow and expand as a global movement."
LookUp and The Social Dilemma Announce Impact Partnership
A Call to Action for Youth-Led Solutions: How Gen Z is Balancing Tech's Promise and Peril FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media Contact: CONCORD, MA– A youth-led movement is building to address the root cause and negative effects of social media on the nation's youth. Two leading forces, LookUp, a youth-inspired social enterprise, and the Netflix Docu-drama, The Social Dilemma, are teaming up to embolden Gen Z to take action and pitch solutions via a StartUp Grant Competition and the Youth 4 Youth Summit, the latter of which will be held on October 24th. There is no doubt that technology has added considerable value to society, yet our society is becoming more and more tech-dependent, and it's backfiring. Young people are succumbing to the pressure of hyperconnectivity and the harmful effects of social media, which are fueling alarming rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Self-harm for girls aged 10-14, for example, that resulted in emergency department visits increased 189% between 2009 and 2015 [JAMA, 2017], and college students in one 2019 study reported feeling depressed (40%), hopeless (51%) and overwhelmingly anxious (60%) in the last 12 months [American College Health Association]. The Youth 4 Youth Summit and Startup Competition are designed to discover and bring young social innovators together to address these complex issues. Susan Reynolds, Co-Founder of LookUp, believes “those who grew up with the evolution of social media are best positioned to create the movement to shift social norms away from hyper-connectivity to a more humane and ‘real’ world.” Two teams in the StartUp Competition will win seed grants for $2,500 for designing solutions that realign technology with the interest of people not profits. They are also accepted into LookUp’s coveted Leadership Lab. The Youth 4 Youth Summit will convene and mobilize youth from across the globe for candid conversation about how youth can #resetech. Award-winning filmmaker, Jeff Orlowski, who directed The Social Dilemma and who will give the Summit keynote address - believes we should look beyond big tech for solutions. “There is a saying — a problem won't be solved by the same thinking that created it. And I do believe this is where greater diversity of perspective, greater diversity of awareness of how society functions and how humanity functions would inform better technology. Youth should have a voice in designing the technology of the future.” The Social Dilemma and LookUp share a vision that technology platforms should be designed to serve the interests of people, not profits - so young people can achieve deeper, more personal connections to their family, friends, and community. LookUp, a fast-growing nonprofit, seeds, supports, and amplifies youth-led innovations aimed at solving some of Gen Z's most troubling digitally-induced problems. It’s sole purpose is to give young people the opportunity, platform, and agency to thrive in a digital world. Exposure Labs is the film & impact production company behind The Social Dilemma a film that blends documentary investigation and narrative drama to disrupt the disruptors, unveiling the hidden machinations behind everyone’s favorite social media and search platforms.
“The Social Dilemma” Calls for Action: Gen Z Answers
If you're a change maker in digital well-being and ethical tech, we want to hear from you! By Susan Reynolds, Co-Founder, LookUp Courtesy of Exposure Labs / Argent Pictures / The Space Program Gen Z has gained the reputation as the go to generation to activate positive change movements for some of the world’s greatest ills. Climate change, racial injustice and gun control, to name a few. Youth leaders like Greta Thurnberg have rallied not only their peers, but entire communities. As the co-founder of LookUp, we give young people the opportunities, tools, and agency to thrive in a digital world. We empower Gen Z to create and develop solutions that counteract the harms of social media dependence, digital overload, and social isolation while activating tech for good and digital activism. The release of The Social Dilemma brings these issues to the forefront. Have you seen it? You must! By September 22nd the trailer had over 4 million views and was holding steady at #4 on Netflix. The film is sounding the alarm bells in 190 countries in 130 languages, and the world is waking up to the enormity of issues we are facing as digital citizens. Gen Z is the generation to step to the forefront with hope, ingenuity and determination to change the course for the future. Their future. “We are at an inflection point when we need the kind of idealism that is emblematic of young people today.” Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, writes on Thrive Global “Why Gen Z Activists Are the Leaders of Tomorrow” where she states, “We are at an inflection point when we need the kind of idealism that is emblematic of young people today.” The Social Dilemma asks for Gen Z’s very idealism and confidence so they can inspire others as they help solve the harms social media and digital overload has brought to our lives. Those who grew up with the evolution of social media are best positioned to create the movement to shift social norms away from 24/7 connectivity to a more humane and “real” world. Let’s bring all of these change makers together! Join Us and Register Here for the LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit! The LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit on October 24 is the gathering place for youth who want to take action. Tristan Harris, in the film, somberly states, “This is checkmate on humanity.” For many adults the darkness of the film overwhelms, but Gen Z brings the hope. Seeking speakers, panelists, workshop leaders, thought leaders and avid enthusiasts for the movement. · Are you already a youth leader in this movement? · Have you taken a break from social media and experienced a difference? · Are you a designer focused on ethical tech? · Are you a thought leader among your peers? · Do you have an idea you want to bring to your campus? Please fill out our Speaker Submission Form. The world needs you! Originally published on Thrive Global
How social media has altered our lives thus far as seen by The Social Dilemma, a new docudrama released by Netflix, and what we can do about it. By Alexa Gwyn, Editor in Chief, C Magazine, and LookUp Teen Leadership Council If you’ve ever wondered how powerful social media companies are, consider that Facebook’s 2.8 billion active monthly users represent almost 50% of the world’s population over the age of 13—the minimum age requirement for having an account. Facebook is currently the fifth-largest company measured by market capitalization in the United States; they generate upwards of $70 billion in revenue a year. When you were signing up for free, did you ever stop to think about how they make all that money? 98% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising. And they can only sell that advertising if they keep you coming back for more. In our transient world, technology is redefining our human experience. Apps that are connecting friends over thousands of miles are simultaneously bringing nations to the brink of war. The release of the television show, “Black Mirror,” in 2014, showcased the dark and twisted realities of our evolving technological world. Each unique episode shows how technology consumes our lives, and the consequences it could have further down the line. While the show depicted frightening scenarios, the cinematography seemed just too unrealistic to prompt action from viewers. The issue was clear, but the facts were missing. That all changed on September 9th, when Netflix released “The Social Dilemma,” a docudrama directed by Emmy-Award-winner Jeff Orlowski, that provided, as Rotten Tomatoes put it, “a sobering analysis of our data-mined present.” The film sheds light on the serious impact that social media has on our society. Interviews with the tech world’s very own developers, alongside dramatized storytelling, work to raise awareness about—and at the same time apologize for—our impending doom. The ability that social media has to hold our attention, alter our beliefs and cause massive polarization is unparalleled. These companies can target us personally and create bubbles that polarize our world. Depending on where you live in America, Google auto-fills different words after the phrase “climate change is...” with either “a hoax” or “real.” Social media companies also say they are just a platform and not responsible for content. In 2018, Facebook was used to incite genocide against the Rohingya people in Myanmar, causing 700,000 people to flee the country. The movie left many stunned, terrified, and quite frankly, lost. Instagram accounts were immediately deleted (and later re-downloaded), trackers installed, notifications switched off, and the neighborhood moms were explosive with chatter on their morning walks. So here I am, as an 18-year-old, living in the heart of Silicon Valley, staring at the rolling credits on the screen, my mouth a gaping hole, my fingernails gripping the roots of my scalp, my heart rate elevated beyond belief, and I exhale. I have to think that bigshots like Tim Kendall (former president of Pinterest and Director of Monetization at Facebook), Tristan Harris (founder of the Center for Humane Technology and former Googler) and Justin Rosenstein (co-inventor of the Facebook “Like” button) would never have appeared on the screen if there wasn’t a sliver of hope amidst all this chaos. There have been important, positive, significant changes that happened because of these platforms. We need to find our own meaning of community, connection, and culture; one that isn’t poisoned with manipulation. As Tristan Harris puts it in the documentary, “It’s not about the technology being the existential threat. It’s the technology's ability to bring out the worst in society...and the worst in society being the existential threat.” The division we see in society is unprecedented. In a world that is only going to be driven more by technology, how do we find the truth? How do we create a shared reality with one another in order to fix these pressing issues? How do we find a balance between life on and offline? Think of tech as tools. We used technology to learn, discover, empower and create. As the first “digital” generation to grow up with social media, Gen Z needs a space to disconnect. Experiencing such constant mental stimulation from such a young age has exposed our generation to far more than we ever should have to experience. We should be feeling the sun on our face, not the glow from the screen. Our truth and value should come from within ourselves and our lived experiences, not the temporary rush we receive in an empty digital void. Susan Reynolds, the co-founder of LookUp.live, can feel change on the horizon, and she sees power in giving youth a voice. “Today's high school students grew up with the exponential growth and use of social media, thus their ‘real’ lives are intricately connected to their ‘digital’ lives,” Reynolds writes. “The pain points, as well as the benefits, are unique to their generation, thus they are the ones who need to be asked for their solutions. The Netflix docudrama, The Social Dilemma sounds the alarm bells, and youth are primed to answer.” We are seeing young people stand at the forefront of huge social movements. Our generation is constantly told that we will be the leaders of tomorrow, but at the rate we are going, I can’t confidently say I see tomorrow. What we do know is today. To be the leaders of today, we need to Look Up. So I urge you, join me and hundreds of other youth on October 24th, ready to lead the world into tomorrow, at the Youth4Youth Summit, powered by LookUp.live, in partnership with “The Social Dilemma.” The LookUp Youth 4 Youth Summit is an opportunity for youth to come together to create actions to shift the negative impact of technology on mental health, relationships and productivity as well as designs for ethical tech, positive use of social media, and their advocacy for regulation. This isn’t checkmate (yet). Originally published on C Magazine
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.