Eric Yaverbaum has more than a few techo-sins to account for: ignoring his wife, tucking his kids into bed by text message, sleeping with his Blackberry cradled under his chin. This Yom Kippur, the Jewish holy day of atonement, Yaverbaum is asking the world to join him in repentance by disconnnecting from the digital world. And you thought fasting for 12 hours was hard.
Yaverbaum, a 49-year-old marketing exec who maintains offices in Manhattan and White Plains, founded Offlining Inc. with his frequent partner, Mark DiMassimo. The organization encourages people to put away their electronics and reconnect with family and nature. Since both men are marketers, they did what came naturally and created an ad campaign. “You don’t have to be Jewish…” skewers various celebrities and their digital digressions.
Along with Mel Gibson, the campaign highlighted Lindsey Lohan and Tiger Woods. So far over 100,000 people have emailed these ads to friends and family, while 10,000 more have signed the Offlining pledge to have ten dinners without any electronic devices by Thanksgiving, 2010.
It’s hard to tell how seriously Yaverbaum and DiMassimo are taking all this. “Eric and I have spent most of the past two decades convincing people to click, log on, trade stocks in their underwear, go shopping online, and spend more time with their digital friends,” says DiMassimo. “We’re still doing that. But now we’re also going to be selling the off button!”
Last year the duo grabbed headlines for their Tappening campaign, which encouraged people to drink tap water and attacked the bottled water companies. The Tappening website features a poll that lets users vote on whether Yaverbaum and DiMassimo are greedy entreprenuers, selfless environmentalists, or both. It’s a nice way of acknowledging the self-serving nature of the duo’s various campaigns. Roughly half a million votes later, the answer is definitively both.