Manhattanville College Professor / Filmmaker Joni Siani Offers Tools and Hope for Digitally Dependent Young Adults


Manhattanville College Professor / Filmmaker Joni Siani Offers Tools and Hope for Digitally Dependent Young Adults

Addresses the Fallout of Our Digitally Demanding World with Screening/Talk Back of "CELLING YOUR SOUL"

March 5, 2019 • Communications

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Thursday, March 28 at Berman Theater, Manhattanville College
**Free community screening**
Students, parents, educators and guidance counselors are encouraged to attend.
A separate discussion after the talkback will be available for guidance counselors.

(March 4, 2019; Purchase, NY) CELLING YOUR SOUL, (Bullfrog Communities, 2017), a film written and directed by Manhattanville professor Joni Siani, will be screened to the public with a discussion following on Thursday, March 28 at 6:30p.m. in the Berman Theater at Manhattanville College. Parents, students, educators, guidance counselors and others concerned about the impact of digital devices on interpersonal relationships are encouraged to attend. The free event will include the film, a four-year follow-up on the students participating in a week-long digital “cleanse” and a candid conversation with the filmmaker and audience members.
A winner of the Boston International Kids Film Festival, Director’s Chair Film Festival NYC and other awards, and featured at the 2018 NYC Independent Film Festival, CELLING YOUR SOUL (runtime 49 minutes) is an examination of our love/hate relationships with digital devices from the first digitally socialized generation, and what we can do about it. “This is a unique solution-oriented film and program, a forum that goes beyond ‘good or bad’ because it focuses on a productive conversation and offers clear strategies to implement in schools, home and life,” explained filmmaker and Manhattanville professor Joni Siani. “Parents need to hear how kids really feel about their digitally demanding world from the kids themselves and kids need to learn how to feel better, happier, more fulfilled and truly connected. Devices won’t give them those feelings — only valuable human connections and relationships.”

Parents have long grappled with the problem of digital overuse and the negative consequences of social media, but don’t know what to do. Siani is offering real tangible solutions with the issues associated with digital dependency, and the fallout of the digitally socialized generation. 

As a professor on the front line of the digital revolutions, Siani observed her students struggling to adapt to the emotional and social demands of life "on-line" and shifted the conversation from "what do you think" to "how do you feel?"

Siani and her students were determined to find solutions to the unintended consequence of digital connectivity that have affected an entire generation. The result is a book, CELLING YOUR SOUL, and the film. To view the trailer, visit  
“Manhattanville wants to offer tools and conversation around the challenges of the digital age to the community at large,” explained Manhattanville President Michael Geisler. “While technology has brought so much value to society, we are well aware of the perils of digital overuse and the need for irreplaceable human relationships and connection for people of all ages to thrive as individuals. CELLING YOUR SOUL is a good step for both young people and parents to gain strength from within and our connections as we collectively navigate an increasingly fast-paced digital world.”

"Research suggests that in young people, the amount of time spent watching screens is correlated with mental health decline — especially when related to use of social media. The terms ‘social media’ and ‘digital communication’ imply social interaction, yet in fact it’s quite the opposite, overuse of social media and reliance on digital communication over face-to-face communication interferes with social skill development and are risk factors for the development of social anxiety as well as other mental health problems. Recognizing signs of digital addiction is different than recognizing signs of other types of addiction because our use of digital communication has become so commonplace," explained Melissa Boston, Psy.D., Associate Dean of Student Health and Counseling at Manhattanville College, who will be available at the March 28 film screening and talkback for questions. "To me, it presents similarly to separation anxiety. It’s characterized by a general refusal to be without access to digital communication, as separation causes behavioral and emotional consequences surface, such as feelings of anxiety and a strong desire to obtain the device as quickly as possible. If you are checking your device several times in a short period of time, are not able to go places without the device (or feel significant discomfort if you do), sleeping with the device next to your bed – checking it before bed, as soon as you wake up, and even if you wake up briefly in the middle of the night, using the device when you are supposed to be focused on something else, if your use is interfering with other activities or if you have gotten in trouble because of your use (in school, texting while driving, etc), and if you secretly have thought that you should or want to be less connected but are too afraid or uncomfortable to go without, you are exhibiting signs of digital overuse and likely digital dependence."

Click here for poster guidance counselors can print for display or distribution.

About Joni Siani
Joni Siani is an assistant professor of Media and Communications at Manhattanville College in New York. Siani is recognized as an authority in digital socialization and the cultural, social, and developmental effects of smartphone technology. She began her career in radio and television, eventually transitioning to teaching communications in higher education. In her work as a professor, Siani noticed the unintended consequences of new connection technologies. Her work inspired a group of students to develop strategies for addressing the effects of these communication trends on the social development of young people. Their efforts produced the award-winning documentary Celling Your Soul, one of the first films to address the impact of smartphones from the perspective of the first digitally socialized generation. She is a passionate advocate of media literacy education, promoting legislative initiatives with Media Literacy Now and the Children’s Screen Time Action Network. Her organization, No App For Life, makes creative media and school curricula, including her No App For Life Challenge, a mindful communication exercise used in schools during Screen-Free Week.
About Manhattanville College

Manhattanville College is a small, private liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence, purposeful education, and social justice. Located 30 miles from New York City on a 100-acre suburban campus in the heart of bustling Westchester county, Manhattanville enables easy access to robust entertainment offerings, educational resources, and business opportunities for its primarily residential diverse student body. The College serves approximately 1,800 undergraduate students and 1,000 graduate students from more than 48 countries and 37 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 90 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, education, business, and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs. Graduate students can choose from over 75 graduate and certificate programs. Extracurricular offerings include more than 45 clubs and 20 NCAA Division III teams. To learn more, visit

For more information, images, or interviews, please contact: 
Heidi Raker, or 914.323.5375 / 201.681.5878

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