by Dennis Dalman
Mitch Bain and Matt Brauchler want to put people first, cell phones second – especially when it comes to their own precious family members.
They have long worried about cell-phone addiction and decided to do something about it. Like many fathers, they have heard their children say pleadingly, “Daddy, would you please look at me? Would you listen to me?”
For Brauchler and Bain, it was a stark realization that, while staring at their phone screens, they were sometimes only peripherally aware of the needs of their children and their wives.
One day, Bain, who lives in Sartell, had a flash of inspiration. Why not invent a box in which to put cell phones, a box that would be a constant in-home reminder to put those phones out of sight, out of mind for the sake of family interactions? When he suggested the idea to his colleague and friend, Brauchler, who lives in Paynesville, both of them were instantly on the same wavelength.
They devised what they call the OSOM box, which is pronounced “Awesome” and stands for Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
The stylish, decorative, gray box can hold up to six cell phones. It has a port entry on the back so phones can be charged while being kept within the box. The OSOM box acts as a kind of physical and psychological barrier against cell-phone addiction. It reminds parents – and children too – to set aside their cell phones in favor of face-to-face times of undivided attention for family members.
The two men are not against cell phones, far from it.
In fact, because of their jobs and professional connections, they know all too well how important such phones are for vital connections. But they are hoping to change the way they and others interact with phones in order to prioritize people first, technology later.
Bain is an account executive for Tarmac Co., a Minneapolis-based firm that helps with web and mobile development. Brauchler also has a job in the mobile phone and Internet business, and the two men met each other when they both worked at W3i in Sartell.
Bain and his wife, Savanna (born and raised in St. Joseph, nee Klein), have three children: Carter, 9; Emirsyn, 4; and Weston, 1-1/2. Brauchler and his wife, Becky, have two children: Everett, 5; and Anna, 3.
Born in Montevideo, Bain met his future wife, a St. Cloud State University student while both were students at the college.
Family life was always extremely important for the Bains and for the Bauchlers, and it took them awhile to understand how technology indulgence can interfere with quality family time.
When developing the OSOM box, they realized they, too, fit the profile of someone more or less addicted to cell phones. For example, four of five cell-phone users don’t go for more than an hour without checking their smartphones. The average time spent per day on a cell phone is 90 minutes (that totals four years in a lifetime). Thirty-three percent of people use cell phones while on romantic dates. In the United States, an estimated 176 million people are afflicted with cell-phone addiction. Fully half of cell-phone users sleep next to their phones, 38 percent check work emails while at the dinner table and 90 percent of text messages are responded to within three minutes of receiving them.
After much brainstorming and research, Bain and Brauchler needed someone to help market their invention. Bain called Kristen Brown of the Twin Cities, a bestselling author and public speaker whose areas of expertise are minimizing stress, setting goals and boosting happiness. A widowed mother of one daughter, she owns her own business. When she heard about the OSOM concept, she was instantly eager to come aboard and join the project concept. Brown understood all too well, from her work dealing with stress, how cell-phone usage can disconnect loved ones from one another.
Many people have asked the two men, “What’s so special about a box? Why not just use a shoebox to put cell phones in?”
Bain said if people buy the OSOM box for a particular purpose, they will tend to use it more than any old box. At home, sometimes Bain will reach for his cell phone. His wife points to the OSOM box. He puts the phone in the box; family connections resume.
“Our use of cell phones is reaching epidemic proportions,” Bain said. “This box is a means of self-control. It’s a visual reminder. It can lead to quality time, better communication, better sleep and not missing family moments around you when they’re happening.”
On the OSOM box website is a questionnaire that can help people determine if they are addicted to cell phones. Here are some of the questions:
- Are phones present during most meals?
- Do you constantly play with your phone in front of your kids?
- Do you check your phone while in the middle of a conversation?
- Do you feel anxious when your phone is not within reach?
- Have you felt your phone vibrate even when you don’t have it on you?
- Is your phone the last thing you see before bedtime?
- Is your phone the first thing you grab in the morning?
- Do you feel the need to respond to a text message as soon as you receive it?
One of Bain’s and Brauchler’s favorite quotes is from the late computer genius Steve Jobs: “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear the most precious resource we all have is time.”
For more about the OSOM box and how to order one, go to www.OSOMbox.com.