Forget body language–the most effective, ultra-modern way to show someone that you’re into them, you respect them, or you genuinely enjoy their company is to keep your darn hands off your darn phone when you’re hanging out. Period. There’s always a little sinking feeling when you’re sitting across from someone who, mid-sentence, feels the need to fidget: To fact-check how tall Channing Tatum is in real life (Google sez 6’1”); to see if your buddy wants to get ice cream and a beer later (yes); to surreptitiously see if it’s your turn in Words With Friends (not yet). Even when you’re in on the search–or doing the search–there’s something distracting, and a teensy bit deflating, about the act.
Blokket, by Chelsea Briganti, Ingrid Zweifel, and Leigh Ann Tucker, aka The Way We See The World, is a simple pouch that blocks cell signals, and part of the MoMA Store’s new Destination NYC collection of Big Apple-designed, USA-produced goods. The smart material is a nylon-and-silver–actual silver–weave, like a “soft Faraday cage” which will also protect your chipped credit cards and passports from data theft. “I know law enforcement fields use it to prevent cell phone access, but I haven’t seen any products like ours on the market,” Briganti tells Co.Design. Basically, once you slip your smartphone in, there will be no calls, texts, or notifications to alert you to activities happening outside arm’s reach.
To address the obvious: yeah, there are, of course, a few built-in options for folks who have the willpower to power down. But when’s the last time you actually turned your mobile off when meeting up with a pal, or activated airplane mode on a date? Attention spans are frightfully short, and the sirens’ call of what’s happening online can be tough to wrench yourself away from, no matter how hard you try. “Blokket helps people engage in the present moment by providing interludes of relief from technology,” Briganti says. It’s as much a kind gesture as it is a functional object.
Ultimately, the issue isn’t just about being polite–the team considers Blokket a tool to engender health and happiness, and a potential gateway toward deeper, more meaningful developments. “We’ve had lots of people test it out and the results were astonishing,” she says. In addition to the predictably better convos and stronger personal connections, using the pouch actually helped to create new habits; users found themselves comfortably making the decision to keep interactions face to face and in the flesh. “That was even more fascinating,” Briganti says. “And this is our goal–to facilitate a change in human behavior.”