Offlining — Right Idea, but What About the Message?

Posted on August 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I love the idea of “offlining,” asking families to take a pledge of device-free time to focus on real-life communication. More than 10,000 people have signed their pledge to have at least 10 device-free dinners between now and Thanksgiving. I like the statement of the guys behind it about where it came from (even if they make the unforgivable mistake of writing “it’s” when it should be “its” — I will correct it below):

We persuade for a living.

We’ve devoted much of the last couple of decades to convincing you to log on, click here, call now, surf, search, pay bills in your underwear, trade from the beach, add “friends” to your digital network and, as AT&T once famously promised in their “You Will” campaign, tuck your children in from your mobile device.

Then one day we made a mistake — we looked up. We took our eyes off the screen long enough to see. We noticed we had kids and wives. We took in the way leaves open their faces to the sun. We reacquainted ourselves with the sounds birds make. And we realized these things could no longer compete.

We marketers had won!

All around us, all the heads in all the malls, airports and train stations seemed bowed in reverence to the device. Life had become multi-screen, multi-task, multi-plexed, mashed-up, an unrelieved contest for diminishing attention. And those who use the media professionally were perhaps the most inundated of all.

…..

We’re not fundamentalists. We’re not anti-marketing. In fact, we love marketing and we respect its power, which is why we’re committed to applying our expertise to the important things. And we’re not anti-technology — on the contrary, we love technology and all it can do for us. But we’re only going to enjoy those benefits if we learn to use the Off Button.

They’re calling for a device-free Yom Kippur (sunset of Sept 17-sunset of Sept 18 this year), not just for Jews but for everyone, to re-connect with friends and family. As noted above, they are marketing guys, and their ads are provocative and some may find them offensive, with photos of scandal-prone celebrities whose electronic communications have gotten them in trouble: Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson, and Tiger Woods. They would say that it is necessary to get people’s attention and I suppose that my writing this right now shows that it worked.

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One Reply to “Offlining — Right Idea, but What About the Message?”

  1. As a rabbi of the world’s first and only progressive online synagogue, I’m encouraging people to CONNECT on Yom Kippur. We videostream live evening and morning Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services as well as pre-recorded kids’ High Holiday services and a Yom Kippur Memorial service with names and photos submitted by our online community.
    Using technology on Yom Kippur allows people to connect to their Jewish tradition and Jewish community. We even encourage talking during services on Facebook! For those who don’t disconnect, I invite you to join us and thousands of others throughout the holidays at http://www.OurJewishCommunity.org.

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