a NON-PROFIT featured: SDM’s ONE-on-ONE with UNDIGITIZE.ME founder Lior Frenkel


We are all somewhat guilty of being just a little addicted to our smartphones… admit it! (you are probably reading this article on your mobile just to avoid social interaction) Well, Lior Frenkel isn’t going to give anyone a break, and he’s right. The smartphone is a powerful too, but there is a time and place and it’s not during dinner, at the bar or during family time, do you agree ? Studies show that Israel leads the world in smartphone usage, Lior decided it was time to do something about it…

What is UNDIGITIZE.ME

UNDIGITIZE.ME is a non-profit social venture designed to raise awareness to smartphone addiction. The Startup Nation (Israel) leads Europe and US in smartphone use. Hence, smartphone addiction is everywhere in Israel – at the coffee shop with friends, in bed with our loved ones, and with our kids at the table – our handhelds and apps serve to exclude us from the situation and prevents us from engaging in healthy social interaction. It’s time to deal with it – so this project was initiated.

To start with, I’ve assembled a collection of user-submitted photos, each depicting people going about their normal business with their “phone faced down”. The message is clear – The smartphone is a wonderful tool, but there are many moments in life in which it’s better for us to leave it be. Putting the phone faced down is of course only symbolic, and is the first step of this awareness project.
Israeli celebrities joined the campaign too – actors, authors, musicians and tv broadcasters – sharing their posters on their Facebook pages, calling their fans to reconnect with real life.

Who’s idea was it ? Why ?

It was my idea, as a former startup founder and app developer, I felt I’m very much addicted myself, and decided I have to make a change. As well there are many shortcomings to smartphone addictions. For example, 57% of american women declared (in a survey) they would rather give up sex than their smartphone for a week.

Now we have 11 team members helping – all are volunteers.

How does it work ?

People are sending us photos to our email, and we design it to be a cool poster. Then, we send them back the poster, and they share it on Facebook and Instagram – that is how it got so viral so quickly…
Is it totally grassroots? Is it all user based submissions ?
Well, I took the first few photos, but since then, it’s all user based submission. No nu-media company was involved in the idea/design/PR – it was all done on my mac in my favorite cafe in town – Casino San-Remo in Jaffa.

Tell us about International submissions

We got photos from Tokyo, Singapure, France, Hamburg, Italy, US, Australia and more… People heard about it – some via their Israeli friends, but also our website (www.undigitize.me) is found via Google search, when people are looking for things like “smartphone addiction” or “nomophobia”.

How has the reaction been ?

Everyone loves it. Whoever we’re talking with, has a cool/funny/annoying story to tell us – how his kid is addicted, or how she hates it when he brings the phone with him into the bedroom… One of the funniest stories is of a vegetarian, that was visiting Greece, and when her battery was about to drain she went to charge it in a schawarma place. She couldn’t stand the smell of the meat, but she’s so addicted to her smartphone, she had to…

What’s next for UNDIGITZE.ME ?

We’re working on few cool projects – some are still a secret. I can tell you about “Missing the world” video we’re editing. We are asking tourists from around the world to send us a short video of famous sites (say, the Eiffel tower) where you can see the site, and next to it people looking at their smartphones, missing the world around them. Then, we’ll take all these short videos and edit them to a cool viral video.

Will you create an APP ? (lol) 

Well, we thought to create an app that blocks all notifications at certain times – say – when I’m on my bike, or in a meeting, etc. But it can’t be done on iPhone or Android, and anyway I want to work with people now more than with apps (I used to be an app developer).

Does Size Matter ?

Well, talking about smartphone screen sizes – size doesn’t matter – all smartphones are addictive just the same…

Check out UNDIGITIZE.ME 

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