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Local therapist, musician explore how smartphones influence creativity in new podcast

Jenny and Jerome

Jenny Black and Jerome Eulentrop

If today's artists didn't have smartphones, would they produce different work? Where would they promote themselves besides social media? How would a smartphone’s absence affect the creative process?

Whereas musicians, painters, writers and others have expressed themselves throughout human history smart phone-free, local marriage and family therapist Jenny Black believes a unique set of problems are plaguing artists working now: digital distraction, toxic social platforms and constant exposure to “second-hand trauma.”

"I took a sabbatical and, in my time off, realized I couldn't take any time off," said Black, who specializes in training and education about how mental health is impacted by our use of media. "This was seven years ago now. I couldn't get away from my phone.

"I did all these experiments with myself and the phone, and then during the process, I started watching what my kids were going through. I was like, 'huh?' What if this has to do with how this has crept up around our lives? We've created a life for ourselves we can never keep up with."

Over time, Black's focus shifted from smartphones affecting her family to smartphones affecting local and indie artists and creatives. While Black does not identify as an artist herself, she observed writers and musicians in her family and friend circles exhaust themselves promoting their work on social media, become stressed out and then distract themselves from the stress with the same social media or other apps.

“I was watching the independent artists lose their ability to create,” Black said. “They’re starting to create in these really small micro-waves, like ‘I’m putting all this energy into a story on Instagram, but I’m not really writing music anymore. I can’t write a chapter of a book, but I’m posting every day.’"

"We’re losing this connection to deep, creative and beautiful things that we’re going to have to, you know, pass on to future generations," she continued. "So, I knew that social media was interrupting the creative process, the ability for the creator to create from that deep place.”

This fall, Black will produce and create an original podcast documenting a musician’s creative process and work over 30 days, only the musician is not allowed to use a smartphone during that time. Instead, they are given a Gabb Phone that can only call and text.

The podcast will be titled "Lost and Found: Lose the Phone, Find the Flow."

The musician participating is Jerome Eulentrop, a 22-year-old independent singer and songwriter known throughout the community for playing violin on Franklin’s Main Street. He has released multiple singles, and his third will be released this November. He will work toward creating an album during the month without a smartphone.

Eulentrop said music is a passion of his and he hopes to one day "monetize" that passion. 

“This year, it’s really come to the point where I’ve had to make the decision to make this work, or it’s not going to happen," he said. "So, the docuseries comes in, and Jenny’s ideas and passion for media and health come at a perfect time where I have to make a choice to focus everything on one thing.

"I’ve discovered I can’t do that if I’m, number one, on social media, but number two, if I want to give myself a leg up, I have to seriously consider not having at least the kind of phone I have now.”

He says he’s excited to discover where his renewed focus takes him, but there’s also fear that Eulentrop’s peers won’t understand the point of the podcast and his decision.

“There’s fear of judgment you’re not choosing these platforms or not, you know, completely selling yourself to TikTok or Instagram and all those games that are being played with the culture," he said. "There’s a big fear [that people will think] ‘Oh, you think you’re better than everyone else?”’

Black claims one of the most challenging parts of not using a smartphone for an extended period is modernly easy tasks become impractical, such as getting direction via GPS and working online. However, she argues practicality is a high price to pay for one's mental health. 

“The goal at the end of the 30 days is to watch someone learn to have a healthy relationship with their phone and put it back in its place of becoming a resource and a tool and something that helps you to live our life instead of something that’s controlling your life,” Black said.

For more information about Black, her upcoming podcast, and other projects, go to

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