One of the most common criticisms of modern technology, particularly of mobile phones, is that they are said to have caused us to tune out with the world. In fact, whenever mobile phones are talked about nowadays, it seems that you’ll always find some cynic talking about how mobile phones are supposedly killing society because they cause people to tune out with the world and interact with each other less. It’s one of the most clichéd sentiments of the 2010’s, but sadly, it’s disturbingly true. While I totally agree that it’s a sad state of affairs, I don’t think mobile phones are killing society, and even if they are, I don’t think that the solution to the problem is another gadget.
If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, a company called Sano Design Lab claims to have an answer to the problem, but I can’t help but think that it’s another case of a company offering a “magic solution” that won’t work out in the real world. What is it? It’s a hunk of plastic! Basically, it’s a little plastic box you put your phone in, and the lid has a timer that’s supposed to be some kind of reminder to “be present”. There’s also the Hiatus case, which is basically just a nice leather phone case.
If all that wasn’t dumb enough, the video you find on Hiatus’ Kickstarter page pretty much sums up how much little faith Sano Design Labs has in mankind. Firstly, the man in the video is Nick Smoot, the creative director of the project, who describes himself on the Kickstater page as “a cell phone addict like you”, yet he spends the whole video chiding all of mankind for being addicted to mobile phones. He states that he saw an article stating that 75% women believe that mobile phones are destroying their relationships, and that “that’s a fact”. I thought it sounded like utter bullshit, and in preparing for this article, I looked to see if that figure had any credibility, and it turns out that this figure looks doubtful. Those figures come from a survey that was taken in 2014, and Mr. Smoot doesn’t even credit that survey. Also, why just women? What about men who feel their girlfriends spend too much time on their phones? Isn’t it a little suspicious that we never hear that side of the story?
Moving hastily on, he bemoans the lack of connectedness of our world (ignoring the fact that mobile phones serve to help make connections), but he’s extremely condescending about it, exclaiming “instead of spending time on Candy Crush how about spending time with your crush?” and “status updates? Enjoy your date”, like he’s you’re god-damn father or something. It doesn’t help that he then proceeds to steal some guy’s phone and then walk backwards with his arms stretched out as if he thinks he’s Kanye West or something. Then, he goes onto try and pitch the idea to employers, claiming that employees are losing their companies “gajillions and gajillions of dollars” because of “technoference”.
First of all, “gajillions and gajillions of dollars” has to be the least professional estimate of all time. If his logic were correct, then every business on the planet would have filed for bankruptcy at the same time as we give our economy a Viking funeral. It won’t come to that, because just the word “gajillions” indicates that Nick Smoot has no idea what he’s talking about. Second of all, did he just describe people slacking off on their mobile phones as “technoference”? On the Kickstarter page, it says that “technoference” is the word major media outlets use to describe the current phenomenon of distractions coming from mobile phones, as if we are somehow incapable of holding ourselves accountable for distracting ourselves.
Meanwhile, Nick goes onto describe the average employee as “about as productive as a bunch of turds in a punch bowl”. Clearly, this man has no friends, let alone any faith in mankind. Then he magically clicks his fingers to make a hiatus box to help “their poor boss”, as if the average American worker actually empathizes with their boss. At this point, Nick Smoot is officially a first-class jackass, but it gets worse. He claims that he and the company making the Hiatus box are on a mission to reconnect the human race, but is he? He’s just out there to sell some shitty plastic box nobody needs. He’s little more than a snake oil salesman.
While rambling on about some hogwash about how “it’s our time to change the world”, Nick claims that everybody is addicted to mobile phones, even your dog. As much of a bold claim that is, he also believes that the hiatus box can save the life of your loved one. If you didn’t realize it already, it should be painfully obvious that this is a classic case of a company trying to convince you that if you don’t buy their product, you’re a monster.
Ever the anvilicious moralist, Nick Smoot wants you to buy his product in the hopes that we can “fix the planet” and “be human beings”. He honestly believes that his pointless gadget will “fix the planet”, he won’t stop there. He then makes the most insulting claim in the whole video. He claims that today’s parents spend more time on their phones than with their kids. While he’s not alone, it’s still makes me think he’s completely lost the plot. Not content with that, he attempts to illustrate his project, only to inadvertently portray parents who are completely disinterested in their kids, with or without the Hiatus box. After the parents stop ignoring the kids with their phones, the clang wine glasses together, presumably preparing to drink their sorrow away, and then the video ends.
At this point, it’s evident that Nick Smoot clearly believes that the average customer is a gullible idiot. On top of being more of an egocentric moron than Kanye West, he’s just another con artist using Kickstarter to sucker the more idealistic among us into buying his lousy wares, but somehow, that shouldn’t be too surprising. He’s attempting to cash in on the cynical sentiment that mobile phones are tearing us apart, and to be fair, it’s easy to fall for such a claim, but it’s not as though you can change the world with another stupid product. Microsoft think they’re changing the world with Windows 10, but all they’re accomplishing is frustrating Windows 7 and 8 users who don’t want to upgrade.
If Nick honestly believes that the Hiatus box will fix the planet, than maybe he should take a look at how many are actually interested. The project started on February 15th, and since then, as of right now, only 33 people have contributed, and Sano Design Labs have raised total of $1,078, falling very short of their $10,000 goal. With seventeen days left until the project closes, I very much doubt that they’ll reach their goal. I guess that’s what happens when you tell people they’re “about as productive as a bunch of turds in a punch bowl”.
If it fails, and I think it will, it’ll probably because of how much of a narcissist Nick is, and also because of the company’s heavy-handed attempts to sell it. One commenter on Kickstarter described their marketing campaign as “limiting and judgemental”, and that’s no surprise considering how much time Nick spends making himself look like a Mary Sue. They think they’re working to “auto-correct” humanity, but who wants that? Even if society’s going down the crapper, let’s take one final moment to think about what they’re implying. Does Nick Smoot really think he’s the one to fix the planet? That guy? That guy’s going to fix the planet? Seriously? At this rate, he’s lucky if he can save all the money he’ll lose from this venture.
UPDATE (26/03/2016): It just came to my attention that the Hiatus Box campaign has been cancelled. Yesterday, with only 36 backers and raising only $1,185, the Sano Design Lab appears to have cancelled the project. Whatever their reasons were, this is a victory for common sense. It just goes to show that, whatever the problem is, you can’t fix them by insulting everybody who doesn’t support your product. In fact, the Kickstarter page received a few legitimate comments deconstructing the project, all pointing out the reasons why it was going to fail (bad product design, bad publicity, Nick Smoot calling everyone “turds in a punch bowl”, etc.). Nick Smoot has not commented on the failure of his project, nor apologized for outright insulting everyone, but regardless of what he has to say, he failed miserably, perhaps for the best.