HP Grad Inspires Others to Unplug

Allison Graham needs you to put down your phone, log out of Facebook, and unplug.

“Let’s take one hour a day to plug back into the earth — and I don’t mean that in a tambourine, ‘Kumbaya’ kind of way,” she said. “All of this technology is awesome but if we can take just a little away, we can really refocus.”

In November, Graham, a producer at Boy From Mars Films, spoke at TEDxSMU.

Her 12-minute speech, “How social media makes us unsocial,” which can be found on YouTube, focused on the lack of communication skills in younger generations as technology pervades their life.

“If you’re 25 or younger, you have always had technology in your life. As I interview people and speak with millennials, they don’t seem to have the voice or capacity to engage,” said Graham, a Highland Park High School graduate.

Since her talk, she’s been on a mission to make conversation that lasts more than 140 characters a reality.

With her Unplug Challenge, she’s urging friends, families, and strangers to take a break from their everyday tweets, posts, and texts to put their phone down for one hour a day.

“All I want is for people to connect — connect with themselves or connect with each other,” the SMU graduate said. “You may need to reconnect with your roots, sit outside and read, or grab coffee with a friend.”

Graham has received a flood of personal testimony harping on the daily addiction to social media and technology from all ages.

“I was giving the talk at an alternative high school, and one girl came up to me. She said, ‘When I was 5 years old, I had a favorite toy and now my brothers and sisters don’t have a favorite toy; they have an iPad,’” Graham said. “The statistics show that the average American is getting a phone between the ages of 9 and 12. That’s crazy.”

Other people are catching on and burning out on technology.

Local mom Judy Bezanson and her family decided to unplug from the Internet twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays, to get a break from the constant buzz and focus on family time.

“We just don’t think it’s good for their brains to be online 24/7,” she said. “They’re definitely in the minority amongst their friends, though, for taking time to turn it off.”

Graham hopes that families, like the Bezansons, and neighborhoods can use the time to meet their neighbors and make meaningful connections offline in just that one hour a day.

Graham admits she has to put away her computer, two iPads, and a phone that all grab her attention throughout the day to find peace of mind.

“We try to blame it all on our kids but that really isn’t the case. It’s all of us now and at this point, every one of us is a junkie,” she said. “It’s a matter of saying, we’re all addicted now. How do we help ourselves?”

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