Dr. Jill Walsh Kicks Off New Wellness Program With “Know Thy Selfie”

“At RL, as you know, we care not only about helping you develop your intellectual passions and pursuits, but also about helping you develop the tools to lead physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy lives,” began Headmaster Brennan on the morning of September 20, as he addressed boys in Classes IV through I. Last Thursday’s presentation marked the beginning of a new, comprehensive health and wellness program for RL’s older boys. Coordinated by Mr. Teixeira, Mr. Sugg, and Mr. Chappell, the program will address a range of timely topics over the year, aimed at helping students establish healthy balance in their lives.
 
The program began with two guest speakers: First, Jordan Grinstein from Ivy Child International set the tone with an invigorating exercise in mindfulness, aimed at getting everyone’s energy flowing and minds focused on being present. Following Mr. Grinstein, boys and faculty spent an hour learning from Dr. Jill Walsh about technology, social media, and their effects on our health.
 
“Technology is neither good nor bad—it’s neutral. How we use technology, and what we create with it, dictates whether we’re employing it in ways that are good or bad,” began Dr. Walsh. Dr. Jill Walsh is a sociologist, researcher, and lecturer at Boston University, focused on how social media can affect young people’s emotional wellbeing and relationships, in ways both positive and negative. (Last year, Dr. Walsh spoke with RL parents and members of the Headmaster’s Council on this topic.)
 
Her presentation to boys included lessons on “amplification”—how social media can make things seem more significant and increase the reach of news and images exponentially and instantly. She discussed how we—young people and adults—turn to tech during any downtime, which can increase our feelings of being stressed, overwhelmed, depleted; how the amount of time spent online—gaming, for instance—can have positive effects over 20 minutes, but that those effects plateau and then become negative after 30-40 minutes; and how a bolder, “snarkier” digital version of ourselves becomes the version with which people interact more frequently.
 
“What we all need to do is be aware: be aware of what you’re putting out there and how people are interpreting it; be aware of what apps/games/technology energizes you and what drains you; be aware of how much time you’re spending so you don’t get sucked into the ‘time void’,” advised Dr. Walsh.
 
Dr. Jill Walsh earned her Ph.D. from Boston University, her master’s from Brown, and her bachelor’s degree from Harvard. She teaches courses on the intersection between society and technology, with an emphasis on the millennial generation. After Dr. Walsh’s presentation, boys and faculty broke into smaller groups for further discussion and to think together through several, real-life social media scenarios.

Photos by Mike Pojman
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