#44 - Your kids are growing up in a social wasteland with Seán Killingsworth

December 5, 2023
Seán Killingsworth

Episode Summary

In this episode of The Aro Podcast, Aro Co-Founder Joey is joined by 20-year-old Seán Killingsworth, the Founder of the Reconnect Movement. Seán talks about why he started the movement, aiming to create in-person communities that counteract the overwhelming influence of social media on our connections. He shares his experiences of noticing, during high school and college, that many kids spent a lot of time on their phones, impacting how they interacted with each other. These experiences led Seán to the realization that kids are growing up in a social 'wasteland,' lacking real connections due to technology. Joey and Seán also discuss how technology is changing the way young people experience dating. Join the conversation for critical insights into what kids are experiencing and how parents can help change this narrative

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Episode Transcript

Seán Killingsworth (00:00):

At the end of the talk, I lay out the whole problem and I talk about the Savannah versus the Wasteland and how this is affecting teenagers not allowed to be teenagers. They're too afraid because they're constantly videoed and they have to pretend and they're not allowed to just be. And then at the very end, I just said, I'm not here to make you feel good. I'm here to make you feel how bad kids feel. Because I didn't know how to fix it yet. I just figured out this vast problem that I knew was the real problem. And I just was basically throwing out into the voy just for help because I didn't know what to do. I was just like, no one's talking about this, but I see it. And I was just calling out in the void for help.

Joey Odom (00:50):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro. You're in for a treat. A Treat, treat, treat. I just met probably the most impressive 20-year-old on the planet Seán Killingsworth. Actually, this was our second time to talk. We were on his podcast, he joined us. Seán is amazing, and I literally just got off the podcast with us two minutes ago, so I'm still kind of digesting the conversation we just had. When Seán was going into high school, he had these great grand delusions of what his parents described, like going, hanging out at the mall and going on dates. And then when he got to high school, he looked around and he discovered a wasteland. A wasteland where it would be weird for him to go up and ask a girl on a date directly where he had to do everything through Snapchat where he felt a little lost, disoriented, sad, and didn't know what to do about it.


And he gave this talk online that you should go listen to. And he talked about the wasteland and the problem that he saw. And again, when he gave this talk, he was 18 years old, he's 20 now, but he was reflecting back on his high school years and he gave such an eloquent presentation of what the problem was, and he left it unresolved at the time. This is two years ago, was unresolved. He didn't know what to do with this problem he saw in society. And then he founded an organization called the Reconnect Movement, which is here to help college kids reconnect. They have events and you'll love this. We talk about this and I get a good laugh in the podcast. They have an event that's called Just Talking. And I laugh because that's what all events used to be was just talking. But now we have events specifically called Just Talking.


This is an impressive guy, and I want, I said to him off the air, I want to figure out how we can support him, and I would love everybody to go follow them on Instagram, listen to his podcast when it comes out. They're launching their own podcast, and I want you to wait for the end. He gives maybe the best advice I think I've heard for parents at the very end. I asked him in light of all of this stuff, the Wasteland and the Oasis Oasis that he's beginning to see, what's the advice that parents should get and should listen to. So wait for that at the end, it's really strong for now. You're going to be blown away just like I was. Just sit back, relax and enjoy digest, soak. In my great conversation with the founder of the Reconnect movement, Seán Killingsworth.


In 2004, a young man started a movement on a college campus that changed the way we connect. And now nearly 20 years after the Facebook started, another young man is starting a movement on college campuses so that we can reconnect. And even though he's a year younger than Facebook, he's a lot wiser. He's in Gen Z and he's causing a frenzy that might just change your and your kids' lives. He can't drink yet, but he can start a movement gang. Let's jump in a portal into the moment and welcome our guest, the reverse. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of the Reconnect Movement. Seán Killingsworth. Seán, how you doing, bro?

Seán Killingsworth (04:18):

Hello. Hi. Good to be here. That was an awesome introduction.

Joey Odom (04:23):

I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Am I correct that you, so 20 years old, is that right?

Seán Killingsworth (04:29):

I'm 20, yes. I turned 21 in October though I'll be

Joey Odom (04:31):

Legal state. Wow. It's upon us. I mean, it's about to happen. That's very exciting. How about that? So you're causing a bit of a frenzy, and it began, from what I can tell, with a talk that you gave on this whole, I mean, I'll let you go into it, but this talk you gave that I think opened, I'm a parent, I'm a dad, and it opened my eyes a bit to a way that it seems like maybe we're being a little reductive in how we approach this topic of phones and where you propose an entirely different framework for how we should look at it. Will you talk a little bit about maybe you growing up as a digital native with phones, with technology, and then how your mind expanded into maybe trying to beginning to solve this?

Seán Killingsworth (05:27):

Yeah, so the talk that you're referring to is the pshaw that I gave about three years ago, actually, I think, or two years ago. And it was at the time that I was coming into awareness of the real problem that was surrounding me growing up with phones and social media and everyone around me growing up with phones and social media. And I mentioned this in the talk, growing up with all of it, I kind of felt like something was missing when I was really young. I didn't have a phone and I was riding my bike around my neighborhood with friends and stuff like that. And then once I got into later elementary school, middle school, it all, I felt like there was something missing. And once I got to high school is when I started noticing. So that's when I started talking about the talk. And in the Pcha Shah, I introduced the idea of the analogy really of the Savannah and the Wasteland

Joey Odom (06:26):

Go into that.

Seán Killingsworth (06:27):

So in high school I realized that what was missing was the Savannah. And so I had gone into high school and I'd been expecting this high school experience, like these eighties movies. I was watching like IES and 16 Candles and Pretty in Pink and all this stuff. And for some reason I was super excited for high school like that. I was going to be going to high school parties and going on dates and sharing milkshakes with two straws in a diner or something like that. For some reason, I had this image of what high school was going to be from eighties,

Joey Odom (07:02):

By the way, first let's jump in. That's very impressive. You were watching 16 candles and pretty and pink. I mean, that was decades before. This is very impressive. I can already see you're a bit of an old soul here.

Seán Killingsworth (07:12):

Yeah, I think I was literally just talking to my mom yesterday. We were looking at pictures of me and my brother when we were younger, and she said I was a super spastic kid, but or not even really spastic, just very energetic. But she said there would be these moments where I would just look at her and I would just have, she said that I would be staring into her soul and she was like, whoa, it's the old


Who knows. But yeah, so I was going into high school with this expectation, and when I went to high school, it was such a different experience than what I expected because every single kid was sucked into their phone constantly throughout the day. So it was like whenever I would see someone, they would be on Snapchat, Snapchatting other people, and then when I would be with them, they would be Snapchatting us to other people while we're hanging out. And then whenever I would meet someone, they would be Snapchatting while we were meeting, and then they'd be like, oh, what's your Snapchat? And then later I would snapchat them and then Snapchatting would be how I would interact with them, really like me one-on-one with them, or that would be the mode of communication. And I quickly discovered that I did not enjoy that form of communication or connection, and I just felt stressed out trying to get a picture of myself to send to someone.


And then there's all these rules where you have to not respond too quickly or you seem thirsty. And if they take five minutes to respond, you have to wait five minutes to respond in order to keep it the same level of wanting to connect. And then there's always the chance they could screenshot what you send or secretly screenshot it by someone taking a picture. It was just like all this pressure, I was just like, I just jumped into high school and I didn't really have social media until late eighth grade, so it was new to me. So I was just like, I'm out. I don't want to do this. So I got rid of my phone completely at the end of my freshman year and I got a flip phone after trying to delete the apps and then downloading them back and then having this addiction, as you would say, it's a habit just either way, just constant use that's uncontrollable at the time.


So I ended up switching all that just like I bumped this, I'm just getting a flip phone. And so I noticed the wasteland and the real problem when I walked into school with no social media participation and no phone to turn away to because I had no option but to look up and talk to people. That was my only options for connection. And so I walked around school and I noticed how many people I couldn't talk to because they were on their phones right in front of me. I noticed people sitting at a lunch table together, not talking because they were all three just on their phones. And then every once in a while they'd show each other something and they just go back. And I started watching this interaction going on all around me. This is how my age group was interacting, this is how my school was interacting with each other.


And then I started to notice why I felt like something was missing because it wasn't that I was just on my phone too much, it was that I had walked into a wasteland of a social ecosystem. It was completely disrupted. So in the talk I get into the Wasteland versus the Savannah. So I realized if I would've walked into high school in the eighties when everybody had only in-person and conversation as an option for connection, that was only everyone's only option, then I would've been able to have so many more people to talk to, so many more friends, to make so many more girls to approach. But instead, I was walking into this phone wasteland, connectionless void. And so that all kind of, I actually wrote the talk before I had known how I was going to try to fix the issues before I had announced that reconnect was going to be a movement because at the time I was just discovering the problem. And then later I discovered the solution of how I'm approaching it, which is bringing together many people at a time without their phones to recreate the effect of the Savannah. So to create an environment where everyone's interaction options are always in the moment, no distractions and communication and conversations in person, which will allow us to replant the Savannah slowly.

Joey Odom (11:41):

And what you said in your talk, and admittedly in your talk, it was left a little bit unresolved. I mean, you left watching that feeling really the problem really to the depths and just thinking almost in a, I don't want to say it in a hopeless way, but almost in a hopeless way. And I want you to repeat your line. You said about you're not here to make people feel.

Seán Killingsworth (12:05):

So at the end of the talk, I lay out the whole problem and I talk about the Savannah versus the Wasteland and how this is affecting teenagers not allowed to be teenagers too afraid because they're constantly videoed and they have to pretend and they're not allowed to just be. And then at the very end I just said, I'm not here to make you feel good. I'm here to make you feel how bad kids feel. Because I didn't know how to fix it yet. I just figured out this vast problem that I knew was the real problem, and I just was basically throwing out into the void just for help because I didn't do, I was just like, no one's talking about this, but I see it. And I was just calling out in the void for help.

Joey Odom (12:53):

So a lot of people who listen to the R podcast are parents, and it's a lot of families, and it's with for kids who are young before they have parents of kids who don't have phones, but then parents of kids who do have phones. And I want to ask you about that. You saying, I'm here to help you feel how bad kids feel. Is that hyperbole or is that real? I mean, are kids really walking around with this, a little bit of a vacuum inside? They are missing something? How are kids and maybe just educate a parent such as myself or others who are listening, how do kids really feel? You are very self-aware. You were watching eighties movies in the two thousands, so that's advanced from a lot of kids out there. So you have a high level of self-awareness. What about just the average kid? Do you think they really do? What are they actually experiencing? What are they going through? What are they feeling right now?

Seán Killingsworth (13:47):

I think that that's a great question. I think there's definitely a lot of people who, or a lot of kids that don't necessarily, they can't put their finger on what's going on the way that I have. I've literally spent the past seven years of my life just thinking about this and dissecting it and figuring it out and looking at why it's going on and analyzing my experiences and cross. So definitely very few kids are doing that. However, through running this movement and talking to kids and hearing their perspectives, whether there's a spectrum of awareness for why, but as far as just feeling it, kids feel it. They feel the collective loss of something that is needed because the reason that I was able to follow this thread of this problem is because what is missing isn't something like, oh, we lost a little bit of comfort. Like, oh, well, I don't know. It's like losing something. You're using an old dishrag instead of a microfiber. It's not like a problem like that. It's like humans need human connection the way we've evolved to need it the same way we need food and water.


And we all felt that during the pandemic, we were all interacting. We have enough technology where we can use Zoom and we can talk and we can communicate through these mediums, but we all learned during the pandemic that communicating over technology is not connection. It is a means of communication for sure. It's very helpful in a lot of ways to navigate life and communicate effectively, but it doesn't tick that box for connection that we need the same way we need sustenance from food and nutrients. So I would say that whether they, because it's slipped in very sneakily by these companies, so they're branded as social medias and it's like, oh, here's all your friends and you're staying so connected with all your friends. You can say more connected than ever. You can be connected with so many different people.


And since we've grown up with it, we just take it as it is, but it's fake connection. It's not that sustenance. It doesn't have any nutrients of that socializing and that connection that we need of that in-person looking face-to-face relating with someone feeling their energy next to you. And so I think that through starting this movement, I've heard many kids takes on me starting reconnect from kids saying, this is stupid. What are you talking about? Phones don't do anything. This isn't a problem to kids saying finally someone saying something about them. I've been, finally, you're saying something. I wish everyone at my school would do this. Phones are just creating this impossible social environment. Kids maybe not saying social environment, but there's definitely perspective of awareness. But kids feel that missing piece and it's been expressed to me in different ways from different kids. But there's a lot of kids who reach out and they say, finally, I didn't know this was it, but this is it. I'm doing this.

Joey Odom (17:14):

Will you go into some, give us the full illustration of the savanna for people who may not have seen the talk. For people who are listening, you've mentioned the Savannah and the waste Wind. Give us that full illustration. It really does make a ton of sense whenever you fully explain it.

Seán Killingsworth (17:29):

Right. Okay. So imagine there is a herd of antelope roaming and grazing the grass of a beautiful Savannah. As they roam, they're contributing to their own ecosystem. Now imagine someone introduced feed bins to the Savannah, the antelope would stay near the bins. They no longer have to roam and graze the Savannah. Over time, the Savannah, the ecosystem of the Savannah would become an unrecognizable wasteland essentially. My parents tell stories of the Savannah teenagers roaming the mall, going on dates, going to arcade, and that wasn't my experience. No one was roaming. Everyone had their face stuck in a feed bin and it doesn't create the same environment. So that's essentially the entire laid out analogy of how I can express what the environment is like now versus what the environment was and what you grew up with and what most people that most parents might be listening to this podcast grew up with. And that's why I had to say, I'm not here to make you feel good. I'm here to help you understand how bad kids feel because it's like you don't know what it's like to grow up in the wasteland. You grew up in the Savannah, it feels normal. It's evolutionarily much more natural and organic, what you guys grew up in. But we have this whole literal, it feels almost apocalyptic switch of the environment that we grew up in.

Joey Odom (19:14):

That's such a perfect, I mean Seán can, as you're telling that, I'm imagining myself 16-year-old, 15-year-old Joey walking through Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I grew up with my friends, Matt Watson and Dallas Martin, guys that I can feel it. And it's not like when we think back on that was a magical time and everything was great. There was still stuff that we had to go through. There was still stuff, but we were able to figure it out and we were actually able to strive through that to get to some things that I am afraid kids really aren't able to develop right now. And a resilience, it's just, and to your point, the ecosystem isn't there. So it's one thing for our parents to say or for me to say to my kids, Hey, why don't you put up your phones and go play? And it's just different. That ecosystem for play and that ecosystem that you talk about, it literally is just not there. Right? Yeah. So you felt the problem, you were kind of unresolved on it then. What was it that, tell us the story from feeling it, recognizing it, noticing it all the way to reconnect. What was that process like and how did you come to the realization that, Hey, here's the solution that I'm going to pursue for it?

Seán Killingsworth (20:24):

Like I talked about in the Pataka Shaw, after I got my flip phone, that's when I noticed the real problem. So the problem of the Savannah and the Wasteland and that I was living in the wasteland. And when I first realized that I was 15, I was going into my sophomore year of high school. And I was just sad because I made the realization that, well, first of all, this is a funny moment I like to tell. So when I first thought of it and I realized, I was like, oh, the problem isn't that I am on my phone too much, it's that everyone is on their phone. So I was like, all I have to do is get everyone to be off their phone together. That's it. That's easy. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And so when I first had that realization, I was like, oh, I can totally do that.


I'll change the world, whatever, I'll do it. I don't know what it was. I'm crazy. So I was just like, I'll change the world, no problem. And so that was like, I just believed that that would happen, that I would do that immediately. And then my second thought was, oh, but that's going to take 15 years. And I was like, yeah, so that means that for the three years that I'm in high school, I'm not going to live in the Savannah. And that's when the sadness came in because I was like, oh man, I can change this for the next generation, but I'm still not going to be able to live in the Savannah that I dream of as a student. So I was sad for a little while and then I found friends. So there's a happy ending. I found friends because I attracted them through me constantly emitting this energy.


And I attracted friends that I told them about reconnect, and they loved the idea and they were off their phones when we hung out and they wouldn't film stuff when we hung out. And so I got this whole experience from 11th to 12th grade that was, I lived in a little mini oasis in the wasteland of the Savannah. And so through that experience and through just professing more about reconnect and just verbally processing more about reconnect, I realized you can create Oasis. You can't oasis. So that's where the idea kind of came of, okay, it doesn't have to be everyone all at once. At the very beginning. It's much like replanting a Savannah really would be, you plant a few seeds and it grows, and then from that little oasis it'll spread and little seedlings will go. So I had my first oasis of the reconnect group that I had at my high school.


We had a few reconnect events, we hung out without phones. And then I created another Oasis at Rollins College, which is still in, I have an event today for the Rollins College Reconnect Organization. And then I started another Oasis at UCF. So essentially now what I've seen is the action that I'm taking is creating these oasis until it flips to where it's more wasteland than it is Savannah right now. But once it just gets that 51% of Oasis versus Wasteland, it'll be normal and it'll make a switch where it's like, oh, you're on your phone right now. Rather than like, oh, you don't want to be on your phone. That's flip. And then we'll be able to have the Savannah just be an Oasis and wasteland kind of be more in conjunction with everyday life in society, and that'll be a period of time.

Joey Odom (24:00):

What kind of encouragement or advice would you give to other parents when it comes to phones and families? We're all struggling with it.

Aro Member (24:06):

One thing that my husband and I have tried to do is if we are on our phones, either walk away so that it's not right in front of our kids so they don't feel like they're getting secondhand attention or whatever. Or tell them, Hey, mommy's got to send this. It's about your birthday party. Or Mommy's got to text Nana and pops because they're going to be landing at the airport soon or whatever it is, so that they know that you're not just, because truthfully, when you have the phone in your hand, whether it's adults or your children, they just see the phone in your hand. They don't know if you're looking at Instagram or if you're texting someone who's in the hospital.

Joey Odom (24:38):

We love hearing stories from the Aro community. The one you just heard actually comes from our Voices of Aro episodes where I sit down with Aro members and they share about their stories and their lives with Aro. Make sure to check out the Voices of Aro episodes, and if you're a member who would like to share your own story with Aro, please email us@storiesatgoaro.com. What does it feel like to, let's use the Oasis visual picture. You're sitting there looking at an oasis and you're encouraged and it's like, okay, here's an oasis, this is great. But then you turn your back from the oasis and you see how vast the wasteland is. This is a huge undertaking. How do you keep from growing discouraged? I mean, you believe it and I believe it. You and I feel the same, but it's a big wasteland. How do you balance that out of just the sheer size of the wasteland?

Seán Killingsworth (25:41):

I mean, I'd have to ask 16-year-old Seán when he, or 15-year-old Seán, when he realized the wasteland was a thing and he was just like, oh, I'll fix it. I'll just make a Savannah. But from that moment on, that was the hardest time was when it was no wasteless and it was just me staring at the wasteland by myself and I was just like, I felt so alone and nobody understood, and I still chose to push forward and say to try this reconnect, this has to be the thing. I won't accept the wasteland as my reality. I won't accept that. You shouldn't either. And so from that point of, and I'll tell you, it was very hard. I thought that I was crazy all the time. I thought that people thought I was crazy. And it was just this slow journey of I had one person that was like, oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense.


And then I was like, someone just said that. And then my mom was very encouraging. So now that I'm in this position where I can physically see an oasis in front of me that I created underneath Reconnect that is within the values of what an oasis needs to be, I mean, that's just like I don't need anything more that is way more than what I was still believing in it before. So now it's just only motivation. It's only up. It's only forward. And I just also, I feel like I have a safety net of knowing that I'm just going to do this for the rest of my life. So that's my purpose. And if I spend my whole life doing this and there isn't a replanted Savannah, oh well, I'll be like Mozart or those people who they die and then they realize a hundred years later that were like, oh, they got it. So I've just come to terms with the fact that I'm going to be doing this and I'm going to give it my all. And if it works, it works. If it doesn't, I don't know, but it is my life now.

Joey Odom (27:29):

Well, the good thing is is it is working. You don't have to hope for some far off promised land. It is happening right now. And I want to hear a little bit about that. I want to hear about some of these Oasis you're seeing oases. I don't know if we've settled on the plural  Oasis yet. We'll have to go back on that Oasis or oases, figure it out. I think it's Oasis, but oases. Alright, we're going to stick with oases. So you're seeing the oasis. I want to hear was there a moment where you heard about reconnect or you heard the impact without somebody necessarily knowing it was yours? You just heard and you're just like, holy crap, this is a thing now without me, it's one thing for you to start it on your own, but it's another thing to realize it's a thing that's perpetuating without necessarily, and you're still obviously involved, but people are beginning to do it. Have you had any of that where you just think kind of a pinch yourself moment and think about 16-year-old Shonda now and think, wow, it's happening?

Seán Killingsworth (28:22):

I think that's tough. I've definitely had stories that people tell me from the way that it impacted them. I think there's just, kids have this feeling sometimes when they're aware, they kind of can feel the wasteland and they know something's fishy with the whole phone thing, but they haven't dive into it the way that I have. So they're just kind of like, something's fishy going on. Then they see reconnect and they're like, oh, here's my gateway into this thing. So there was this one girl who I went to high school with and I started talking about reconnect at my high school and my senior year, and I started an Instagram page and people from my school knew about it and stuff like that. And I ended up stopping events because I got some hate and I kind of second guessed myself and people made a fake Instagram called Unconnect movement, followed everyone that followed me and then made this hate post.


And I got all in my head about it. And then I stopped having events for a while. And in my freshman year of college I was over at a friend's house and this girl who was friends with us but wasn't there all the time kind of came to the party and towards the end of the party, I think I was just driving away and I showed her some picture of us in high school and she was like, oh, you know what? I remember seeing your reconnect Instagram in high school. And it blew my awareness of it wide open. He was like, I realized that I was on my phone so much and everyone was on their phone so much and it allowed me to realize I don't actually want to be on my phone all the time. And she said that it sparked this whole thing where the whole summer after senior year, all grad parties and in between college and all that, she deleted all her social media and she was barely brought her phone anywhere.


And she said it was the best summer of her life and it was this whole amazing experience. And she said it was all inspired by that little bit of awareness she got from me speaking out and me saying, this isn't normal. And she was able to have that epiphany. And I think that that was pretty cool because it was like, even though I didn't directly talk to this girl, she was able to create a little oasis in her life from my just instinctually she knew what to do, she just didn't bring her phone and she deleted her socials and she talked in person. She created a little oasis for herself. So I think that was cool where I didn't know that my message could truly have that effect on someone's life. And when I found that out, that's when I got another spark for reconnect and I started having events again and I started picking reconnects back up. And

Joey Odom (31:17):

It's interesting hearing the, at first I was ready to go beat up the person who's put the hey post out there just thinking about that because you just really, someone's doing something great here, but it makes sense because I think you're well over that moment. But this is important for you to know that weak people are afraid of others', strength someone, and we all have weakness inside us, but they see your strength and people are afraid of it, and people are intimidated or intimidated by it because they see that weakness in themselves knowing they can't do it themselves. They don't believe in themselves enough to do it. I know you know this, but you need to remind yourself of that. Any opposition, everybody craves connection, that everybody craves connection. What you're doing is opening up a conduit for connection. You're putting yourself out there in order to do it, and then people who are weak are afraid of that strength that you're using to make the world better that, but just continue to know that, you know what I mean? So what's a reconnect event look like? Tell me what happens someone goes to when are, how frequent, what are they like? Who goes, give us a whole breakdown.

Seán Killingsworth (32:28):

Yeah. Okay. So we're on two colleges right now. We are at Rollins and UCF. We're looking to start another club at University of Florida in the spring. So we'll have three colleges. We meet once every two weeks and once a month on the weekend. So the weekend event will be something like a hike or we go to the springs or we go to a park and just hang out for maybe a half of a day. And then the weekly events are going to be stuff. We have an event called Just Talking where essentially

Joey Odom (33:02):

Everybody, by the way, just pause real quick. I love that an event is called Just Talking. That's what all events used to be was just talking. And so now, okay, go on. But I love that. Yeah.

Seán Killingsworth (33:13):

Well, it was inspired because I would ask my mom once I got out of high school and I saw this Snapchat and group chats and texting, everyone was doing all this. I was like, what did you do in high school, mom? What was it like for you? And she said, we'd have friends over for a sleepover and we would just literally talk for hours just all night. We would just talk and talk and talk. And Keith said something cool like this in one of you guys' video for Aro, he was saying his 15-year-old and all of her friends came over for a sleepover and they all put their phones in Aro knowing they would talk better together, which is so cool. But it was based off of that story my mom told me, which is like, man, as a generation, we have lost this art of just talking.


So I started this event called Just Talking Period, just talking, and it's essentially where I facilitate conversation, which seems crazy to probably someone grew up in the Savannah just like, oh, what? You just get a bunch of people together and they mingle and they converse, and that's just what happens. But that does not happen naturally with this generation. When I bring every time when it's the first event of the semester and it's the intro to reconnect, I just do my best to grease the gears, but I just got to wait because people show up and they just kind of sit there and people will be there, they'll just look around and then they don't have their phone and they're in this social situation with people they don't know and they just literally stand there and I'll try to talk to 'em and be like, hi, what's up?


What's your name? They're like, I'm this. And then they're so not used to this kind of interaction. So even though it holds a greater potential for connection, they're not used to that barrier to entry. So it's like they just have to get over that. But once they do those same kids who were like, Hey, I'm Shelly or whatever, they'll go to every event for the rest of the semester because after they get over that barrier to entry, they'll realize it's a greater reward. So just talking, I facilitate people talking and then we will break out into groups of four that talk, and then we'll have a whole group talk and then we'll have Switch partners and stuff like that. But it's all just about talking.

Joey Odom (35:25):

And you do tell 'em about the box you put in, which we're a big fan of putting your phone in a box, but tell me about the box that you put in for a reconnect movement. I love what you refer to those as.

Seán Killingsworth (35:35):

Yeah, so we call boxes or the bag, whatever we use, but we have boxes. They're painted with purple and black and they look like black holes or portals, we call them portals into the moment when you put your phone into the portal into the moment, in the moment, you're not leaving the moment anymore. And once everybody goes through the portal into the moment, it creates all these people sharing a moment together rather than people kind of in and out of their own moments and their own phone or in person and then back out. So portal into the moment, it's like you are in the moment and there's nowhere else for you Go.

Joey Odom (36:17):

One thing I love that you said, and it's so true, I'd never thought about it this way, is when you have your phone, it's almost like you have one foot out of every conversation. And in this case you have no option but to be there. You have no option but to be fully into the moment. You don't have a backup plan, which is very uncomfortable, which can be terribly uncomfortable for people. But like you said, you start to settle into it. And especially the fact that the great thing about what you're doing is you're finding other like-minded people who want the same thing. And so you have that baseline and even if you're, let's say you don't have your phone and you're having a conversation with somebody, if somebody else has a phone with them, it's almost like you yourself, you're wondering if that person is looking for an out with their phone.


If you and I are talking and you have your phone, don't, the moment you glance at your phone, I think, oh crap, Seán doesn't want to talk to me anymore. And so this creates that totally safe environment for that which is just, again, it's just crazy. But that is the reality we're in. So what are the results? What are you hearing from people at Rollins and UCF? You mentioned one of the older stories from when you talked about in high school. What about now? What's kind of the fruit? How do you measure your success? How do you judge your success and reconnect?

Seán Killingsworth (37:33):

Well, I think that it's been as far as measuring, I don't know that we've done too much measuring, but I would say by the people that show up every week and the fact that it is the same kids who came to the first event and then were terrified of interacting or they were super anxious when they first came and then they got to experience reconnect and they've been to almost every single event since that feels like I've made an impact on those kids experiencing the portal end of the moment. And those kids now have a contrast of the wasteland the same way that girl who heard about the movement and was able to get off her phone because she realized she was on it and everyone was on it so much. It's like even though they're just going to an event, we're going to hang out and go off our phones.


We're going to paint or we're going to just talk or whatever, but they don't realize. They might not realize, some might realize, but they are experiencing an oasis of the Savannah and that will manifest in the way that they walk around and they see stuff now. So they will be able to have the same interaction that I did when I got my flip phone while they walk around and maybe they notice now maybe they're like, oh, you know what? I really enjoyed reconnect. I'll leave my phone home for class today. And then they'll see the wasteland and they'll be like, whoa, this is a real thing. So it's creating these people in generation Z who are no longer a victim fully of this unaware victim of the wasteland, but now they're able to have something to refer to and something to compare to and understand that it's not normal to live in this total wasteland and we can have something different.

Joey Odom (39:22):

Well, I think that's giving someone courage to know that they don't have to do that way. You're just showing them there's a different alternative. This reminds me so much of the Matrix, by the way, hearing, it's almost, I don't know if you've seen The Matrix, but this where he talks about the thing that you feel inside. You just know that there's something else. There's a great quote, I'll find it and I'll send it to you, but there's something else, but you can't quite identify it. But then when your eyes are open to it, that's all you can see. That's all you want. And so you said when you start experiencing the oasis, it makes the wasteland that we're so used to so meager, and then you're just looking for more of those oasis experiences. Right. Okay. I want to talk dating in college real quick. What is dating? That's the first question right now in the wasteland, dating in the wasteland. And then how does this change your filter on dating once you've experienced a little bit of the oasis? How has it changed your filter on what you should expect from dating in college?

Seán Killingsworth (40:18):

So dating is definitely heavily, it relies on social media heavily because people, well, it depends. So for me, I've just determined the only person that is going to be remotely worth the time is going to be able to get past the barrier of conversation and connection. I'm not going to participate in the Wasteland games anymore. I'm past that. I'm only going for people who are like that. But for the grand population of college, they're playing wasteland games, which is the Snapchat game, which is you meet someone, you have an interaction for sure, you talk, maybe you're probably drunk at a party because people are having great conversations sober and maybe that's a normal college thing, but it's definitely a thing in the wasteland. But you have this conversation, you get each other's Snapchat, and that's when the real beginning happen is over Snapchat, not in person because the in-person interaction's just a immediate, it's like a mediating whatever.


We're just doing the thing and then we're going to get each other's Snapchat, and then that's where we're going to do most of the thing. Not everyone does this, but definitely the people playing the Wasteland games are doing that. And I experienced that in high school. That's why I was like, get this away from me. I hated the game. You're having to wait five minutes because they waited five minutes. And then it's devastating when you're talking. And the preliminary stages, you're not sure if they like you or not. You're not sure if you're being cool enough or if they like you like them and you're not sure if they like you. And for you to be having that conversation over text or Snapchat and then to be left on delivered for a whole day or something or left on red for however many hours after you've been pouring your heart into this conversation, that is genuinely anxiety just through the roof and just like, what did I do?


What did I say? I hate myself. I can't believe I said that. All these huge responses of it's devastating. And so while on the other end, the girl could really like you and she's just with her family for a few hours, but you're on the other end freaking out. And so both people are trying to connect. So both people are trying, let's say both people like each other, they're both trying to connect, but the in-between social media mediator is the thing that is just blowing it all up by they both feel like they have to play by these weird Snapchat rules of waiting and doing all this and that. And then on top of that, just using the application, you have to not respond for however many hours if you're not using your phone and the other person is just going to be devastated or the smallest typo could ruin the text.


And then they're reading this weird thing, they're like, what do you mean monkey? And it's like, oh, I met other, or something like that. It's the smallest thing. And then you're like, what did I do? And then not only that, but over Snapchat, the way that the conversations work is you'll be in these conversations for, it could be days, it could be all day that you're going back trying to keep this conversation afloat conversation on Snapchat, but you might wait a few hours, go back and you'll be like, you'll see her response. But Snapchat the photos disappear, so you'll forget what you even said because it was hours ago. And so then you'll see some response and then the conversations ended, but then you try to keep it afloat. It's just like the most surface level non connecting interaction. What happen for a lot of people is through that interaction, they'll meet practically all over Snapchat or they'll meet on Instagram, DM each other, get each other's Snapchat, and then meet on Snapchat.


And then they'll try to meet up in person. And what a lot of people experience, this is a very common thing that people relate to is you Snapchat, you think you know this person, you have this idea who this person is, and you meet up with them and you're like, it feels like you're meeting up with a stranger because you didn't really connect. And so they have this weird interaction where they barely talk or they might not actually vibe together because they've never actually tried to vibe together. It's just all weird fake Snapchat. So that's what happens a lot.

Joey Odom (44:34):

So if you want to ask a girl out, do you ask her out in person? How would you go about, if you just said you were interested in a girl, what would you do? And again, you're operating probably in Wasteland rules, so how do you do that?

Seán Killingsworth (44:49):

Well, okay, even me, even I'm super aware and on this and I don't do this. It's even hard sometimes. It depends on the girl. I would try to meet a girl who wouldn't feel like, this is weird, but asking a girl on a date is really weird now because just growing up in this generation, the rules are like Snapchat is the getting to know each other process and then going on a date you're now dating if you're going on a date, you're a girlfriend and girlfriend now. So the entire meeting people process is referred to as talking. So that's what you would call dating back in the day when you're like, oh, we went on a few dates, whatever. That in-person step is this huge step now. So when you've gone on an in-person date, they're like, oh, we're ready to get married. That that's proposed basically from that.


And not everyone's like this, but this is the vast majority of the generation that operates like this. So it's like I remember going through that because when I got my flip phone, I was like, I don't have Snapchat. That's how I can't meet girls. So I asked girls on dates and they would look at me like I was insane. I had three heads, I'm going date with you. We just talked. It feels like this crazy step. So that's how I personally would probably find a girl that is mature to where she would want to go on a date and get to know each other. But that's rare as very, very rare and few and far between.

Joey Odom (46:23):

Oh my goodness. Yeah, this is a different, I'm just getting a tip of the iceberg on the wasteland here. We could go another hour on that topic. I know you need to go, but I want to get a golden nugget from you parents are listening, parents who have kids who don't yet have phones, who do have phones. What's the piece of advice that you would give to parents right now to help them develop their own oasis in their families for their kids so that their kids are not just perpetuating a wasteland?

Seán Killingsworth (46:57):

The most important thing is having more than one kid being the one without their phone. So when I was in daycare and everybody had a DSS, except for me, I was alone. It was really bad. And then one kid came that didn't have a dss, and then we immediately became even more connected. We were best friends immediately and we'd hang out and we had the best time together. So even just one other kid is a huge step in being able to hang out without our phones. And so I think maybe parents might dismiss it saying, oh, it's just one other kid, it's whatever. But even just one kid and forget five other kids. So if you can find a way, if you have young kids get with other parents that are like-minded, whether it's an Instagram post, whether it's with talking to other parents, be like, Hey, this phone thing, I listened to this podcast or I heard this thing, or you can see it. I don't want my kid to be stuck on a phone.


What if we had our kids hanging out together without their phones? And that is what's going to create an oasis, is this kid having the opportunity of hanging out with friends that they actually like that are good friends without having phones. And I think for teenagers, I would say have the kid. So reach out to your kid. If your kid is someone that is responsive to this that is aware, I don't want to be on my phone, but I don't have all, or maybe tell 'em about this ideas and see if they are receptive. If they are aware and conscious of it and they want something different. Or maybe tell them and then help them want something different. And be the bad guy when they have their four friends over. Be like, alright guys, I'm taking the phones. Finish up what you got to do for this sleepover.


I'm sorry, we're doing phones. They're like, maybe talk to the parents or something like that and help facilitate that, but be the bad guy so your kid doesn't have to bear this weight of guys. Let's be off our phones. I know how hard that is. Everybody's like, come on dude. But if you can help them have that phone free sleepover and then Heath's Kids, Heath's, 15-year-old daughter, they noticed it after trying out Aro, they wanted to use it more. So it's like once they experience that oasis, they'll probably be more susceptible. You just have to be able to at least facilitate that a little bit and help them have multiple kids. That's the most important thing. They're not alone.

Joey Odom (49:18):

That is brilliant advice. Where can people learn more about the reconnect movements and how can people help the reconnect movement?

Seán Killingsworth (49:27):

So right now we have a website. It is the reconnect movement.com, and we have an Instagram, which is the reconnect movement on Instagram and help out. I mean, give us a follow on Instagram. I'm going to be posting the podcast there. So I'm starting up my second iteration of my podcast where I've interviewed Heath and Joey. I've interviewed Ginny from a thousand hours outside. I'm starting that up right now. So just follow along and look for updates on the podcast. That would be great. That's how you can keep along.

Joey Odom (50:00):

Seán, you are an impressive guy. This is amazing what you're doing. Thank you for the work. Thank you for the reconnect movement. I really would love all of our listeners to follow on Instagram, figure how you can support, let, let's help spread the movement. Let's build the Oasis together. Seán, thank you very, very much. I appreciate you joining us here on The Aro Podcast. I'm leaving very, very inspired. Thank you.

Seán Killingsworth (50:25):

Woo. Sweet. Thank you for having me on Joey.

Joey Odom (50:27):

Alright, brother.

Joey Odom (50:33):

How about that guy? He's 20 years old. I don't think that, in fact, I know I was not that impressive at 20 years old. I don't think I'm that impressive. At 43 years old, clear thinking, eloquent and just his commitment. I asked the question, I almost felt bad in retrospect asking a question about, oh, how does it feel when you see how big the wasteland is? He was completely undeterred by that. He goes, no, no, I know we're building Oasis. I know good things are happening. He's looking at the solution. Just that mindset. What if we all have that mindset that he has in whatever's important in our lives, but the mindset that he has for the reconnect movement, he is fully focused on what's ahead. He's fully focused on the success he's having. Yeah, the problem's big, but he's going to stay optimistic through it.


That's an impressive guy. Please go follow them on Instagram. We'll put all the stuff in the show notes, listen to their podcast when it comes out. I'm very grateful for Seán Killingsworth for what he's doing and just the one piece of advice that he gave to us as parents is Band together. Let's do it together. We can build Oasis in our kids' lives and we can do it together. I don't know many parents out there who don't want real connection for their kids, don't want a great future for their kids, but it requires us to do things that may feel a little bit uncomfortable. It's like we always say at Aro, if you can do it a little bit earlier too, it's really, really helpful. So let's do it as early as we can. And even if it's not early, maybe your kids are in high school already.


I'm going to do this with my kids. I'm going to say, Hey, it's nine o'clock at sleepover. Let's take the phones. And you all just talk. And it may feel uncomfortable for them at first, but it's going to be great for them. They're going to find parts of themselves they didn't know existed, and they're going to step into a different level of confidence. So I'm inspired, as you can tell, thank you to Seán Killingsworth. Hey, share this episode with somebody. Please share it with your spouse, share it with your friends. Please share this episode. We want as many people as possible to hear about this. Thank you so much for joining us for this edition of The Aro Podcast with Seán Killingsworth. We can't wait to see you again next week. Thanks so much. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support, and to our executive producer Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.