Why We Built a Technology To Get People Off Technology
In 1998, the film The Truman Show was released, chronicling the life of Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) who is born into and lives a life unaware that he is the main character of a constructed reality show until he becomes suspicious of his perceived reality, confronts his fear of the open ocean (a fear planted by very smart, very capable people), sails courageously until he runs up to the edge of the dome and exits. Where the movie ends is where his journey of discovering himself begins.
Nearly twenty years later, we experience the chronicles of people’s lives through feeds and phones. Many of whom are from generations born into and living a life unaware that they too are characters of a constructed reality where very smart people from very prestigious institutions are paid very handsomely to lure them into very addictive habit loops. Every time we open our desktops and reach for our smart phones, we enter a dome of planted consciousness. How will this movie end? When will journey of discovering who we really are begin?
Questions like these have spurred my business partner, Micha Mikailian, and I’s latest venture, Intently. We started designing Intently three years ago at a curious intersection of our own personal lives amid the cross streets of “Do” and “Now” (read: “what do we do now?”). We were selling a company that we founded and ran for the better part of a decade. My grandfather, who raised me, was passing away. Micha was exploring his own personal healing. In our individual ways, we were in a very naked experience with our own self-discovery. One morning, Micha was deep in his meditation practice when a clear vision showed up where every ad space and new tab on his desktop and the lock-screen on his smart phone reminded him of his intentions. Affirmations to be still, to be courageous, to be vulnerable, to be healthy. Immediately upon finishing the meditation session, Micha called me, and we felt compelled to go on this pursuit.
From Day 1, Intently was a both a passion project for us and a platform for well-being for people directionally like us: people so hyper-achievement oriented that we confused doing great amounts of work for being great human beings. We worked with and sought advisory from thoughtful, intelligent people who shared the same ethos of responsibility and ethical product design (like Tristan Harris of the Time Well Spent advocacy group) and launched Intently softly.
Immediately, people started to write in. We were touched when someone wrote to us describing how she was beginning an argument with her partner when she was reminded of how powerful and accepting she really wanted to be. Because of that, she instead engaged in a beautiful, connected conversation. She didn’t even know how that behavior shifted in her until she looked online later that evening and saw an affirmation from Intently. It was same affirmation that she said to herself before dynamically steering the conversation towards a positive route.
We were blown away when another person wrote to us describing how he was experiencing suicidal thoughts and confined himself in his own house when his friend installed Intently on his desktop and took the time to craft specific affirmations for him on what he wanted to call into his life. Every time thereafter, when he was mindlessly surfing websites with infinite scrolls and comparing himself to his peers (his usual diversion), he’d be reminded of who he really wanted to be. Two weeks later, he got out of the house, got a job, and started to take care of himself.
We continue to receive messages of profound self-discovery from our community. And Micha and I also continue to experience the power of Intently ourselves. Micha was at dinner with his mom when she piqued something that would usually trigger him. In that moment, he thought “you will continue to be tested until you are no longer triggered” and mused about what that feeling of being triggered was testing in him. He relaxed back, let the feeling float away, and began one of the most loving conversations he ever had with his mom. It didn’t register with him what occurred to get him to show up differently in that moment until the next day when he was online and saw a banner that he had seen repeatedly for the past week. It read: you will continue to be tested until you are no longer triggered.
Intently is a part of a community of products designed to benefit lives. We don’t measure the success of our work by number of installs or time spent using Intently. Our core community experiences the main impact of the product which is categorically counter to other online products: people get out of the dome and experience life.
The journey of discovering who you really are awaits you.