How many times a day do you check your phone? According to Dutch virtual mobile network Ben, the answer is 200 times a day. As a commercial telecom provider, Ben should be very happy of our addictive smartphone habits. However, they recently launched an advertising campaign to sell smartphone plans by promoting disconnection. Remarkable, if you ask us.

In one of the TV commercials they explain a strategy to gain attention from your distracted dinner partners: while they are calling, you start eating from their plate.

In another TV spot, phones are replaced by pineapples. Everyone is continuously staring at his/her pineapple. A voice-over explains: "Wouldn’t it be strange if we miss the beautiful moments in life because we are staring at a pineapple all day? So why do we do that with our mobile phones? You don’t share the very best moments in life with a pineapple. You share these with each other". The end of the commercial shows an elderly couple in bed. While the man lies on his right side staring at his pineapple, the woman tells him to put the pineapple away.

Why would a telecom provider choose to sell connectivity through disconnection? The answer is easy: disconnection, offline, and In Real Life (IRL) are booming businesses! While Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, like Google and Facebook, are working for an all-connected world in an always-connected digital future, today’s post-digital society moves the focus on the offline, the analogue, the physical, as a reaction to the pervading intrusion of the digital and its networks in our life. Youngsters are leaving Facebook, children of high-tech professionals go to low tech schools, and top managers have stopped using their smartphones.

Global hyper connectedness has created a backlash. The always on status of digital connectivity has put our concentration, focus and attention to the test. And with the world in their pockets, western citizens struggle with a chronic feeling of emptiness, decreased social skills, depression and burn-out, according to several psychologists, sociologists and critics like psychiatrist Dirk de Wachter, among others. In our search for a more balanced relationship with our 21st century communication tools, extremes are visible. One of these extremes is the desire for disconnection, a longing for ‘real’ communication with physical attention and complete focus.

Ben is not the only one that uses the ‘digital detox’ or ‘less is more’ strategy to sell its products or services. Digital diets, digital detox and Wi-Fi free cafes are popping up more and more. Brazilian beer brand Polar designed the Polar Cell Phone Nullifier, a beer cooler that blocks signals. KitKat created free No-WiFi Zones to enjoy your well-deserved offline break. Dutch department store HEMA sells candles with slogans like: "Offline is the new luxury". The IRL happiness industry has come alive to help you reconnect with yourself in today’s over-connected society.

Source: E-flux. Image: Ben

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