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Max Stossel Shares Healthier Approaches to Using Social Media

Artist Max Stossel had a simple question for Lawrentians gathered in the Kirby Arts Center: Think about the time you felt most alive, free, and connected to the people you love. After a few moments, he asked, “Raise your hand if you were on social media at the time.” No hands were raised.  Stossel was unsurprised. “Why do we do we spend so much time doing something that doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves?” he inquired.

Stossel is Head of Education at the Center for Humane Technology (CHT), a nonprofit founded by former tech insiders dedicated to realigning technology with humanity’s best interests. He spoke at an all-School meeting this morning to illustrate some of the specific ways technology is designed to be addictive and distracting. He talked about the ways apps on the “magical device in our pockets,” are specially engineered to keep us constantly needing to check it. “Every little detail is designed so you don’t put it down,” he explained.

Mental health challenges, especially for teenager, have sky rocketed since the advent of social media. It’s never been easier to run from ourselves, he said. Learning to sit with feelings, boredom and the challenges that come with daily life is a major challenge. “Having negative emotions, nervousness, and working through obstacles is an essential part of life,” he noted. Picking up our phones as a distraction doesn’t allow us to fully process those difficulties.

He offered tips to empower students to cut down (or cut off) social media’s influence on their mental health. Students should consider how games/apps make them feel, deleting anything negative, and train algorithms to show positive content more frequently. Other suggestions included turning off autoplay, using a physical alarm clock, creating phone-free zones, avoiding the blue light of screens before bedtime, and studying and focusing with phones outside of their rooms.

Before working with CHT and founding Social Awakening, Stossel was a media strategist with an extensive background in social, running social media for multinational brands, and later working for a social media company where he designed some of the notification structures to distract people that he now raises awareness about.

This evening, Lawrenceville parents have the opportunity to meet with Stossel via Zoom to learn more about how they can assist their students to successfully navigate our increasingly complex digital world.

For additional information, contact Lisa M. Gillard H'17, director of public relations, at lgillard@lawrenceville.org.