Sometimes great inspiration stems from great annoyance. Grahm Dugoni, the founder of Yondr, was inspired to create change due to a great annoyance: the presence of phones at concerts.
Anyone who has attended a concert within the last ten years can vouch: there is a phone epidemic at concerts. Phone usage at concerts is irksome to a multitude of parties. Fans have to deal with someone else’s phone obstructing their view. Artists have to compete with an electronic device for their audience’s undivided attention.
Dugoni, an avid concert-goer, realized phones were having a negative impact on the concert experience. He noticed a disconcerting shift; people are more focused on documenting an experience (such as a concert) rather than actually experiencing it.
This shift is rather complex, but the solution is decidedly simple.The concept of the Yondr case is relatively simple: when entering a concert or comedy show, everyone in the audience has to put his or her phone in the case. He or she is allowed to keep the case on them throughout the duration of the show, but unable to access or use their phone. In the case of an emergency, one must leave the venue and have his or her phone unlocked by a Yondr attendant. After leaving the show, Yondr attendants unlock the cases. The cases are opened and closed using a magnetic system.
Chance the Rapper, Lorde, and Donald Glover are just a few of the many celebrities who decided to use Yondr at their shows. Sometimes the choice to use Yondr is driven by the need to keep material confidential. For instance, comedian Dave Chappelle utilizes the Yondr bags to prevent his jokes being recorded and shared online, potentially ruining the show for those who have tickets for a later date.
“I know my show is protected,” Chappelle told New York Times, “and it empowers me to be more honest and open with the audience”.
More often, however, artists use Yondr because they want the audience to be engaged. Guns ’N’ Roses, a band that has been around both before and during the smartphone epidemic, noticed a huge disparity between regular concerts and phone free concerts.
Band member Duff McKagan describes playing his first phone free concert in 23 years as, “It was the old-school feeling, where people were dancing and getting down. It was really cool.”
The electrifying energy of a packed stadium may be a stark contrast to a classroom on any week-day morning, but both venues are riddled with the same problem: audiences are sometimes not engaged.
There was such an overwhelming need for Yondr in academic settings that, rather than the company seeking out clientele, clientele came to them. After attending a concert or show in which the Yondr cases were in use, many administrators or teachers would approach the company and inquire if they could implement Yondr cases in their own school.
When implementing Yondr in schools, the company stresses that it is not a punitive measure. For this reason, a representative of Yondr goes to every school and has a conversation with the students about the negative impact constant disengagement can have.
Benji Spainer, who oversees all the education partnerships for Yondr in the Northeast, elaborates on Yondr’s philosophy.
“If you just take a phone away and say no it doesn’t teach anyone anything,” Spainer explains. “It doesn’t teach students the benefits of making your own decision to put your phone away when you’re with someone.”
The conversation includes a presentation containing data about the influence smartphones have on socialization and mental health.
Yondr’s presentation proved to be effective with multiple Woodland students. One student, Dia Gawronski, was inspired to start a “No Phone Week” after listening to the Yondr presentation. The challenge, which Gawronski orchestrated as her senior project, prompts students not to use their phone for up to one week.
“Something that really stuck with me was when Benji (Spainer) addressed how phone companies, such as Apple and Samsung, actually design phones to be addictive,” Gawronski shares. “It made me realize that teens today are attached to their cell phones to a concerning extent”.
Gawronski, who participated in the challenge herself, hopes participants will realize most of our cell phone usage is not out of necessity, but rather out of impulse and habit.