http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/05/31/take-a-break-from-technology


Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - May 31, 2013

Take a break from technology

Teens want everyone to spend Sunday socializing -- in person

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

People meeting for coffee or a meal on Main Street. Teens talking on the phone or gathering at today's equivalent of the malt shop. Everyone loves hanging out with their friends.

But more and more, socializing is taking place in the virtual world.

"To keep in touch with old friends, instead going to meet at a coffee shop, it's over video chat, text messaging, and facebooking," said Taylor Sowers, 12, who will be vice president of Pleasanton Middle School next year. "I mean what happened to the old-fashioned 'hang out?'"

Not only are interactions less often face to face but people want to communicate instantly.

"The world has lost its idea of what socializing, making plans, and playing is and what it can be," said Troy Maxoutopoulis, 17, a student at Amador Valley High. "Now it is all about instant responses and re-tweeting other people's ideas. Kids are losing their sense of self.

"Recently I realized cell phones, computers and watching TV can easily consume someone's life and be distracting," he continued. "It's difficult to live in the moment, enjoy the company of others, and appreciate nature when you are constantly waiting for a text, tweet or uploading something.

"People over use social media to inform the world they are doing things of extremely little importance, i.e., 'just stepped on a ladybug #omg #poorguy.'"

Taylor, Troy and some other Pleasanton teens have targeted Sunday, June 2, as a time for everyone to turn off their cell phones, televisions and computers and instead to Plug Into Life. The important thing about the day is to socialize in person rather than over an electronic device, and the teens are planning activities that range from fishing to sand volleyball to board games to eating ice cream.

Troy's sister Kortnie, a sophomore at Texas Christian University, held a similar event three years ago when she was a senior at Foothill, but this one has had more advance planning.

"Initially the idea was suggested by my mom (Terri), but I could not agree more with the objective," Kortnie said. "It makes me realize how consumed society is by their phones today, myself included, and therefore we all miss out on the ability to experience and appreciate what is occurring in the present moment.

"We most certainly take face-to-face relationships for granted and instead rely on our technology relationships to fulfill us, but way more times than not I realize people ultimately feel much less satisfied and even lonely."

The no-technology day was considered by the Pleasanton Youth Commission but its term was ending so the members continued on their own.

"One day during one of my local Youth Commission meetings, Terri Maxoutopoulis came across and shared her event with us," Taylor remembered. "I was really excited about it, and I really wanted to help. Personally, one day would be really nice without my phone, laptop and TV."

She designed a flier, which was printed on super bright paper, and helped draft announcements to run over the PA systems at schools this week.

"I feel that everyone, all the time is on their phones. Nobody really has face-to-face conversations anymore," Taylor explained. "I love this idea because it's not forcing you to put your phone down for a lifetime, but just for one day. Just to enjoy one single day. This is going to be great for our community because just like everyone else, we are all way too technology savvy."

The teens handed out 800 of the 2,000 bright fliers, printed for free by AlphaOmega, at the May 1st Wednesday Street Party downtown. They've continued to visit businesses on weekends to ask merchants to post the message in windows, hoping to reach everyone.

Terri noted that the day is not just for teens. She said most people accept the fliers happily but several have refused them, saying there is no way they will give up their phones, even for a day. They are often in the middle of a cell phone conversation as they communicate this, she said.

Lori Franklin, a parent on the Youth Commission, is also helping with the Plug Into Life event. She said her son Tyler, 13, a student at Hart Middle School, has a phone, a computer and an Xbox but probably just over-uses the latter.

"I love my cell phone but I am not on it all the time," Lori said. "I do have to say I get very annoyed, not so much with people talking but what bothers me most about cell phones is when people are not paying attention to what's around them, like when they're driving. I've been hit a couple of times."

As a member of the pre-computer generation, she recalls when things were different.

"I hope a lot of people get outside and enjoy what Pleasanton has to offer because I love it," Lori said. "They have to see their neighbors, see the wonderful park down the street -- even for a couple of hours."

Katie Olmo, 17, a student at Amador Valley, is also looking forward to Sunday.

"I think I overuse my phone and it will be nice to have a day with no electronic devices distracting me," she said.

Katie said she feels the world is both better and worse with all the new technology.

"With cell phones I know I feel safer knowing that help is just a phone call away, however it distracts me from school work," she said.

Kortnie said she recognizes the irony in using technology to plan the no-technology day and agrees that phones are often used for valid reasons, to connect with friends in other places.

"But other times, especially those in younger generations use social media sites and indirectly develop a standard they must meet in how cool their lives are compared to all the other amazing things others are doing out there," she said.

"Time simply gets so wasted away obsessing with the cool things others are doing or trying to show off what you are doing that people miss out on what is actually happening in the moment."

"The experience goes a little more something like this," she explained. "'Oh it's great to see you! Let's get a picture for instagram...' 'Ahhh that is so funny, wait, repeat that so I can put it in on twitter.'"

"As much as I try to detach from my phone every once in awhile, it can be difficult to jump start the process," Kortnie admitted. "I believe if the whole community became involved it would give everyone a reason to come together and appreciate the relationships and friendships that are present right here in this great community."

Plug into Life

Activity Location Time

Bike ride Marilyn Kane Trail 9-11 a.m./3-5 p.m.

Picnic in the park Million Hills Park 1-3 p.m.

Basketball/football/baseball End of Sports Park 1-3 p.m.

Volleyball/basketball/tennis/badminton Tennis Park 1-3 p.m.

Pleasanton Ridge Hike Staging area on Foothill Road 9-11 a.m./3-5 p.m.

Board & card games Pleasanton library 1-5 p.m.

Ice cream social Meadowlark Dairy 2 p.m.

Swimming Shadow Cliffs Lake 1-4 p.m.

Fishing Shadow Cliffs Lake 8-10 a.m.

Golf, 9 holes Pleasanton Fairgrounds/pre-call 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Walk your dog End of Sports Park (bring leash) 2-5 p.m.

Charades (bring blanket & dinner) Mission Hills Park 5-7 p.m.

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