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Go offline this Thanksgiving

NEW YORK CITY — As you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, there are at least a couple of guys who hope you give thanks instead of thx.

New Yorkers Mark DiMassimo, an advertising executive, and Eric Yaverbaum, who owns a public relations company, have launched an "Offlining Campaign" to encourage people to "become reacquainted with the off button — and each other, at least once in awhile," DiMassimo said. They want people to set aside iPods and iPads and BlackBerrys and other technological devices and actually look and talk to each other this Thanksgiving.

The campaign was launched in June, "and we thought Thanksgiving was a great time for our first targeted Offline day," he said. They have asked people to make pledges on their offlininginc.com website. They've teamed up with some turkey distributors to put stickers on the birds showing pilgrims using laptops, with a reminder to go offline. "We love the idea that offlining might even be a topic at dinner," said DiMassimo.

It's not that the men are anti-technology. "We've devoted much of the last couple of decades convincing you to log on, click here, call now, surf, search, pay bills in your underwear, trade from the beach, add 'friends' to your digital network and tuck your children in from your mobile device," they note on their website.

Then one day, "we looked up. We took our eyes off the screen long enough to see. We noticed we had kids and wives. We took in the way leaves open their faces to the sun. We reacquainted ourselves with the sounds birds made."

They realized they were missing a lot, said DiMassimo. "There's so much more technology these days. Screens are multiplying everywhere. We just advise people to have a little time set aside for no screens. This is important, especially if you have a family. But everyone can benefit from a few minutes spent gazing into space or having an actual conversation."

"Everywhere I look, people are on some kind of device. Every set of eyes is looking down at a Blackberry or iPad. It's rare to meet someone without some kind of device."

While he can see a lot of humor in that, there are some underlying factors that raise serious issues.

"Some experts believe excessive use of the Internet, cell phones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic.

"It's not cause for hysterical concern," he said. "Like many powerful tools, technology can do a lot of good. It just depends on how you use it," he said.

"Try making an offline resolution," DiMassimo suggests. "Have an offline Father's Day. Consider committing to a weekly offline sabbath. ... We just think life can be better if we occasionally hit the off button."

A nationwide poll conducted in May by New York Times/CBS News revealed technology attitudes and usage:

A majority of Americans say devices like smartphones, cell phones and personal computers have made their lives better and jobs easier, but some say they have been intrusive, increased their levels of stress and made it difficult to concentrate.

Almost 30 percent of those under age 45 said the use of these devices make it harder to focus.

Almost 40 percent of respondents said they check work email after hours or on vacation.

About 30 percent said they could not imaging life without computers; 65 percent said they probably or definitely could get along without their PCs.

One in seven married respondents said the use of these devices was causing them to see less of their spouses.

One in 10 said they spent less time with their children under 18 because of technological devices.

e-mail: carma@desnews.com