• Olivia Atwood Joins Rodman Ride

    By Marie McGrath | Posted Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Actor Olivia Atwood Talks Rodman Ride, Smartphone Culture and Living the TextLess Mission.

Atwood Rides for First Time Saturday, September 22nd.

The Rodman Ride is just a few days away, and Team Merritt’s Way is getting ready for its 5th annual ride. Olivia Atwood is riding for this first time this year but has been a part of the team from the very start.

“Merritt was my first friend,” says Atwood, “so obviously we were all devastated five years ago when a distracted driver killed her.” Following this horrific crash in 2013, Atwood’s sister Emmie, then a high school junior, started TextLess Live More at Milton Academy.

“She wanted to take concrete action and make a change so that other families and friends wouldn’t have to deal with such a horrible circumstance that came as a result of something so stupid,” explains Atwood. “Somebody sending a text—four seconds out of your life—had such an effect on the lives of so many people in such a tragic form.”

Atwood, who is now an actor in New York City, sees the effects of smartphones around her all the time, and the danger goes beyond texting and driving.

“The thing that I have noticed the most is lack of eye contact,” she says. “It’s really been bugging me lately when you’re talking to someone, hanging out with friends, and they’re looking down at their phone typing while you’re trying to talk to them. They say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just texting someone but I’m listening, I’m listening, I swear.’ No, you’re not listening. You’re half listening at best.”

Although she is committed to the cause and diligent about having a mindful relationship with her phone, Atwood wants to stress that she is not perfect at it.

“Obviously I get distracted and obviously I text people. I use social media. Everyone is struggling with this. That’s the reality of the situation. It’s about making a change in yourself as well as others. And I’m really working on this, but I’m definitely not perfect, and nobody is. As long as we’re working on it.”

Atwood recommends setting small goals to help break the cycle of addiction and anxiety with our phones. One way to start, she advises, is just putting your phone slightly out of reach.

“It’s such a simple fix!” she says. “If my phone’s charging in the other room, then I’m not checking it every two seconds.” Atwood has also deleted social media from her phone and swears by the app Moment, which tracks your phone use and holds you accountable.

“There are positives and negatives [with cell phones], she says. “When I graduated college in 2017, my phone use went up so much because I wasn’t surrounded by the people I cared about all the time. I’ve thought about deleting [social media] permanently, but then I think that I would be missing opportunities to connect with people in the real world. Social media was created so we could continue to make connections with people in the real world, not just scroll through them for hours on end! I think it’s so important to live in the real world without distractions and spend quality time with the people you love, and to not be texting while you’re doing that.”

Atwood is hopeful for the future, and has a message for students who are taking up the TextLess mantle:

“I really respect what you’re doing. It’s so hard to be taking this on at such a young age when this technology has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. I think you’re really brave for tackling this issue that’s such a central part of your day-to-day life.”

“I encourage you to continue building connections with your fellow classmates. It’s really easy to feel discouraged when you’re seeing people continuing to be distracted and continuing to be addicted to their phones. You can hold onto hope by just starting with yourself. Even making a change with one person’s attitude is such a big step forward. Focus on getting the attitude to change with one person, and then another person, and then another person. Every little step really counts and will build into an even bigger movement.”


Click here to donate to Olivia Atwood’s Rodman Ride.  

Merritt Levitan, Colin Kohl, Olivia Atwood, Milton Academy, Spring 2013