Technology expert dies at 32 of brain tumor; had become advocate for unplugging from technology

He slept with a laptop under his pillow until his health collapsed in 2008.

From New York Times

Levi Felix, a Proponent of Disconnecting From Technology, Dies at 32
By Christopher Mele
January 12, 2017

Levi Felix, who championed the virtues of unplugging from smartphones and other technology and co-founded Digital Detox, which sponsored retreats and camps to help people reconnect in real life, died on Wednesday in Pismo Beach, Calif. He was 32.

Adam S. Poswolsky, a longtime friend who worked as a counselor at one of the camps, confirmed Mr. Felix’s death. He said Mr. Felix had a brain tumor.

Mr. Felix sought to bring balance to people’s lives by disconnecting them for stretches of time from the clutches of their phones and from social media.

He knew the hazards firsthand.

Mr. Felix worked 70-hour weeks for a tech start-up, and his lifestyle became a high-tech cliché of late-night Thai food and sleeping with his laptop under his pillow. In 2008, he was hospitalized after suffering an esophageal tear from exhaustion.

The experience was an awakening for him, Mr. Poswolsky wrote on Medium. Mr. Felix re-evaluated his priorities, he told The New York Times in a 2013 interview. He sold his car and his “nice Penguin clothing,” he said, and traveled for more than two years. He spent a year in Cambodia with Brooke Dean, who was then his girlfriend. The couple, who married in October, lived and worked at a guesthouse on a remote island without a cellphone and without access to the internet.

I’m a geek, I’m not a Luddite,” Mr. Felix told The Times in 2012. “I love that technology connects us and is taking our civilization to the next level, but we have to learn how to use it, and not have it use us.”

With Ms. Dean in 2012, he founded Digital Detox, whose mission was, it said, “to create more mindful, meaningful and balanced lives, both online and off.” It sponsored retreats that emphasized yoga, meditation, a healthy diet and one-to-one connections as a reprieve from digital life.

In a video, Mr. Felix said he would like to see “more people taking more time to reflect and experience what they’re doing instead of sharing it or Instagramming it or posting it on the internet.”

I’d like to see more people looking into people’s faces,: he added, “instead of looking in their screens.”

Among other programs, Digital Detox sponsored Camp Grounded, a summer camp to help adults unplug from technology. Campers turned in their electronic devices — which were sealed in plastic bags labeled “biohazard” — and participated in activities like hiking, archery, swimming and capture-the-flag competitions. Campers also took on nicknames, with Mr. Felix adopting the name Fidget Wigglesworth.

The first camp was in California, and more soon opened in New York, North Carolina and Texas. Mr. Poswolsky said in an email on Thursday that Camp Grounded was planning to host its final two sessions in May in Mendocino, Calif.

Mr. Felix was born on July 29, 1984, in Fresno, Calif. His online biography described him as a community organizer, international speaker and retreat facilitator, with a background in psychology and music. He regularly spoke at conferences and led workshops for companies, organizations and universities.

He is survived by his wife, Ms. Dean; his parents, Bluma and Edward Felix; his brothers, Seth and Zev; and a grandmother, Edythe Felix.

Mr. Felix learned in February that he had a brain tumor. Two months later he wrote a letter with the salutation “Dear Beautiful Humans of Planet Earth” in which he presented the details of his health crisis but expressed confidence that he would recover. He included the hashtag #WeGotThis.

He closed the letter by reminding his followers to call their parents. “Squeeze your siblings,” he wrote. “Tell everyone that you love them.”

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