Written by Julie Barrett O’Brien, Executive Director of LookUp

I’m an eternal optimist. Always have been. So, it should come as no surprise that I’ve found a few good stories to share about these uncertain times.

Being separated from friends can be unnerving, especially for teens and young adults who, on a good day, are not embarrassed to be seen in public with their parents. But here’s the good thing about this virus. The fact that everybody must spend time with their family makes it “almost” OK. It’s like being at summer camp without a cell phone. Just the other day, in fact, my 15-year-old son joined me for a run. Truth be told, he did negotiate running with the dog in the woods while listening to music, but at least we ran together. (A first!)

Our dog, Bruin, is totally lucking out these days because being outdoors (in a safe distance from others) is incredibly good for our mental health – even for just 20 minutes. On one recent walk, we came upon more family units (loosely defined) than I’ve seen in quite some time. There was the mom, dad, and two little kids singing and riding bikes along the Rail Trail. At the park, two awkward adults were doing their best to play soccer with their two teens and tweens. Nearby, two more adults were teaching their tweens a thing or two about Pickleball. And more people were walking dogs than I’ve ever seen. Everyone was out and seemingly enjoying each other’s company. It felt different than a regular spring day. Our community had an air of Thanksgiving.

I’ve also spoken to several parents of high school athletes who, like me, define “family vacation” as a tournament across state lines. They had the same thought as I when they heard that school was closing and absolutely no sports would take place: “Let’s go see the Grandparents!” Fearing weeks of endless gaming and Netflix binge-watching, they checked for deals on flights. Some even talked to their welcoming parents who still felt invincible because a) they refuse to identify as “elderly” or b) the Coronavirus COVID-19 turmoil had not yet hit their state. But we soon admitted that our parents are elderly (sorry mom and dad) and at heightened risk, so we stayed put and set our vacation sights back on the tournament sideline.

I love these stories because they emphasize the value people place on spending time together – face to face – and the unselfish decisions they’re making to keep everyone safe. They also underscore the joy of living in the present and cherishing those very real people sitting right next to them – be it family or the roommates you are sequestered with inside a tiny NYC apartment.

At LookUp, we empower youth to find and lead lives with genuine tech-life balance – to embrace the “humanness of things” as much as the internet of things. Over these next few weeks and months, we encourage you to celebrate your time together – outdoors, building puzzles, or even in front of the TV. We are in uncharted territory. We need each other now more than ever.

May we all choose wisely, be well, and stay healthy.

Originally published on LinkedIn and LookUp.


  • LookUp empowers young adults to thrive in a digital world through agency and advocacy. Our mission is to provide opportunities for youth to discover, develop, and advance their youth-led solutions for healthy relationships with technology in order to reverse the negative effects of living in a digital age. Instead of having adults solve a problem they haven’t lived through, let’s get right to the source: by listening to Millennials and Gen Z, we can use personal experience as fuel for real change.