Share this story

 | Kate Quiñones | Catholic News Agency

The Humanality Movement: ‘Creating New Rituals’ to Use Technology ‘with Intention’

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

When Catholic musician Andrew Laubacher decided to quit social media in 2018, drained from a music career that had him on social media constantly, he couldn’t foresee that five years later he would be helping to lead a movement dedicated to encouraging others to break their own tech addictions.

“I just was not happy with how all these platforms were just becoming so all-consuming,” Laubacher told CNA in a phone call. “So [in] 2018, I decided to give up all my social media and go back to a flip phone. I told my record label and management at the time I was going to do that. They were like, ‘That’s a horrible decision. You’re not going to get any events.’”

“I just knew God was calling me to do it,” he explained. “I did it and deleted everything, went to a flip phone, and just experienced so many amazing things in regards to my relationships, my mental health, my spiritual health.”

Laubacher thought he’d be leaving his music career in the dust but found he could still be successful in music without social media. He then met married couple Hope and Justin Schneir, who had a similar mindset about tech and had founded Humanality, a movement dedicated to “helping people discover freedom through an intentional relationship with technology.” 

Laubacher is now executive director of Humanality, working alongside the Schneirs, who launched Humanality after successfully establishing the “Unplugged Scholarship” at Franciscan University of Steubenville — their alma mater — which awarded 30 students with funding for agreeing to give up their phones for a year.

Who needs Humanality? 

As a mental health crisis persists in the U.S., Laubacher noted that spikes in anxiety and depression, increased loneliness, and widespread cultural addiction to pornography have coincided with the launch of the iPhone and social media platforms.

The percentage of adults with depression has risen from 10% in 2015 to 29%, according to a 2023 Gallup poll. According to a report by Common Sense Media, nearly 3 out of 4 teens have consumed pornography. 

“Essentially, since 2010, there’s just been exponential upticks in suicide, self-harm, mood disorders, anxiety, and depression — especially amongst teen girls, directly correlated to the front-facing screen that came out on the iPhone and your Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, et cetera,” Laubacher said. 

One Pew study from 2023 found that suicidal ideation among high schoolers in the U.S. has increased from 16% in 2011 to 22% in 2021, with young women being more at risk, at 30%. 

“Looking at the sociological data, I think everyone’s pretty aware of the issue and most people are willing to admit — we’re all addicted to our devices in some way,” Laubacher continued. 

“Living with a smartphone is like living with a Frodo’s ring in your pocket, and the more addictions we crave through it, the stronger the pull, and the heavier the burden becomes,” Justin Schneir told CNA in an email. 

“Humanality really is the solution,” Laubacher explained. “We’re a movement that’s trying to cultivate more human interaction, and what we’re calling ‘human flourishing.’”

Addicted to tech? Join the club

“At the heart of our tech addictions is a legitimate desire for connection,” Hope Schneir told CNA. “Many young people want to move toward a more unplugged lifestyle, but they are afraid to do it alone.”