“TextLess Live More” day raises awareness of phone use

Cleo Falvey, Arts Writing Editor

Harvard sophomore Emmie Atwood speaks about the loss of her friend Merritt Levitan and the value of minimizing technology use at an A-block assembly.
Harvard sophomore Emmie Atwood speaks about the loss of her friend Merritt Levitan and the value of minimizing technology use at an A-block assembly.

As students filed into the Textless Live More assembly in the auditorium, a powerpoint presentation projected the facts: “It takes 1.5 seconds for drivers to perceive a need to stop and move their foot to the brake pedal. Driving at 50 km/h, a car will travel at least 34.9 meters before coming to a full stop.” This projection foreshadowed the event’s message: A PSA about the dangers of texting and driving, and about putting down one’s phone to live more fully.

Led by Harvard sophomore Emmie Atwood, the Textless Live More campaign was created after her close friend, Merritt Levitan, died in 2013 in a car crash after being hit by a driver who was texting. Atwood said that the other driver’s phone showed that he was texting four seconds before hitting Levitan.

According to Atwood, Levitan was always generous in giving her attention and time to others. Atwood said that she created the program to give back some of Levitan’s generosity.

“Raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving to save lives and prevent tragic accidents and encourage people to use technology in a mindful manner and be more present,” a slide from a powerpoint shown at the assembly read. “4 seconds of distracted driving is all it takes to lose someone you love.”

During the assembly, students watched three videos. One was a PSA by the TextLess Live More campaign. The campaign said that teens spend up to three hours a day texting. They then asked people what they would do if they had three free hours. Answers ranged from spending more meaningful time with family and friends to more personal goals like painting or writing.

The next video was the viral video “Look Up,” a spoken word poem that contrasted the idea of using social media to connect with friends versus the truth that it creates more isolation than it does connection.

Lastly, the Student Peer Leadership group presented a video where they asked students from the high school various questions about the use of technology in their lives and ways in which it can be distracting: Driving, doing homework and having personal connections with family or friends.

Atwood also acknowledged that it is hard to know when to stop texting.

“Texting is so ingrained,” Atwood said. “It’s hard to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.”

To combat our dependence on our phones, Atwood said that the campaign urges others to use their technology mindfully. Atwood said that her high school, Milton Academy, started a day in which from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., no one used their phones. Atwood also expanded the program, saying that over 300,000 people read Levitan’s story, she has sent 10,000 bracelets, and 150 schools have implemented programs to reduce texting.

Atwood guided students wanting a distance between themselves and technology to go by the Textless Live More table during first or second lunch to sign a pledge to reduce technology in their lives. Signing the pledge has the benefit of receiving a free sticker or bracelet to remind students to stay in the present.