Written in partnership with Sarah Johnson

Surrounding yourself with people you love and care about (and vice versa) can bring joy and happiness to life simply because love and happiness are contagious, just like yawning. However, in today’s fast-paced world, where most people’s minds and eyes are focused on tiny little screens, we sometimes forget to pay attention to other people around us.

According to data collected via the RescueTime app, the average person checks their phone around 58 times daily and spends over 3 hours staring at the screen.

Marco Donatelli, 21-year-old a self-made social media celebrity turned model, explains that it’s okay to spend time watching online content as long as we find a balance between watching a little screen and spending time with our loved ones.

“There are more critical things in life to do or places to be than to be glued to a screen. Your loved ones will not be around forever,” he says. “Put down your phone once in a while and go hug your mom or dad. Talk to them and laugh with them while you still have time. ”

Marco Donatelli rose to fame during the Covid-19 pandemic when lockdown interrupted his football career. Bored at home, Donatelli started shooting TikTok videos for fun. When one of his TikTok videos became a viral sensation overnight, Donatelli’s life changed.

Over the past few years, Donatelli climbed through social media circles with lightning speed. He has traveled around the country, meeting fellow TikTokers and documenting his experiences on social media. He fell in love with the lifestyle and decided he wanted to pursue content creation and modeling full time.

However, as Donatelli points out, he could never get to where he is today if he didn’t have his loving parents’ unlimited and selfless support, especially his mom.

“My mom was my rock and hugely impacted my life,” Donatelli reveals. “She was the one that always told me that I have a face that people would love to see.

Donatelli’s mom was there for him at each stage in his life – from supporting him at football games when he was younger or getting in trouble and expelled from school.

“We had a great relationship. We loved each other unconditionally,” he adds. “My mom and dad never turned their back on me. And I’m forever thankful because I couldn’t be the person I am today without them.”

Unfortunately, Marco Donatelli’s mom passed away last year from renal failure and liver disease resulting from alcoholism. In doing so, Donatelli lost his guiding beacon. It was challenging for him as he had trouble coping with losing someone so dear and vital to him.

But, as the old saying goes, “Some of the greatest inspiration is born out of desperation.” Donatelli found his solace and inspiration to push even further, preserve his mother’s memory and create a platform that would change the world.

As he explains, every young adult has the potential power to help the entire world. All they need is a chance. And Donatelli found his in content creation, and modeling as with mass popularity comes an excellent opportunity to change and influence things.

For Marco, another way of cherishing his mother’s memory was by creating a shirt in memory of her. This way, he reached out to many young people by creating awareness of alcoholism and drug abuse with a powerful message.

“When you experience something so traumatic, like losing your loved ones, it will shape you mentally and emotionally. The change in you is inevitable,” says Marco Donatelli.

To spread awareness, Marco Donatelli started a GoFundMe. He raised $3200 for First Step Recovery, a drug prevention and alcohol research center in Warren, Ohio. In his post, he highlights how in media and advertisements, society tends to glorify alcohol consumption instead of portraying it as an addiction.

“My Mom was my best friend. She showed me what life could do for you if you’re just nice to people. I only want to create a platform to show people that they will be all right no matter what happens in their life.”

With that in mind, Donatelli wants to send another message to everyone.

“It’s true what they say. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. So, cherish and love the people around you because once they are gone, some things will stay to haunt you. But don’t stop there. Try to wake up every morning with a mission to be a better person. Try to be nice to everyone, as that’s how to make the world a better place.”