The Gifts of Going Offline
We've all been there: At the dinner table with family, grabbing a cup of coffee with a friend, when, in an instant, your companion's attention is diverted to their device of choice. "How many times has it happened to you," asks Eric Yaverbaum, "when you're in a conversation with someone and suddenly you want to ask, 'How many of us are there here? Me, you, and who else?'''
Yaverbaum and his business partner, Mark DiMassimo, are the founders of Offlining, a site devoted to getting people to unplug at least once in a while in favor of interacting with the world right in front of them. The duo uses clever ad campaigns and online pledges to encourage people to put devices and screens aside.
One of their campaigns offers this advice: This Monday, give your special someone not just chocolate, but also your BlackBerry, to show that you actually want to spend time with just them. "Valentine's Day is the quintessential day for spending time with someone," said Yaverbaum. "It seems that every holiday is a little bit of lighting rod for what we don’t do anymore and what we used to do together."
The Offlining website is part of a larger unplugged movement emerging in the midst of our tech-obsessed lives, and the resulting mess of e-waste. A nonprofit think tank called Reboot has declared Mar. 5 the National Day of Unplugging, and will even provide a cell-phone sleeping bag to help you achieve a tech-free day.
Offlining's founders, both marketing executives, are far from immune to the technology dependency they caution against; Yaverbaum is a self-proclaimed addict. Rather, they say, it's about making a conscious effort to carve out times to go without.
"The message is that technology will change our lives, but we need to exercise a little bit of restraint and not forget about personal interaction," he says. "I actually make time to go out in the yard to throw a baseball these days. Without my BlackBerry."