At a California tech start-up, Levi nearly worked himself to death; he was hospitalized to recover. He and his girlfriend, Brooke Dean, who also worked there, quit, sold most of their belongings, and hit the road, living for two years abroad and reevaluating their lives. They lived and worked for a year “on a remote island” in Asia — without technology. “I’m a geek, I’m not a Luddite,” he said later. “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.” And he realized he needed to share the revelation with those who would listen. “He knew the presence he felt on the island,” says friend Adam “Smiley” Poswolsky, “and the lessons that came with truly appreciating each moment in life, not just documenting them on Facebook, was something he needed to bring back to his friends.”
The result of their reflection on the island was a new startup, co-founded with Brooke, who he married: Digital Detox. The company’s “Camp Grounded” puts on tech-free retreats, a sort-of summer camp for adults “to create more mindful, meaningful and balanced lives, both online and off.” The retreats, held in various states, were a hit. “Digital Detox” became a well-known idea to help people addicted to social media get more balanced in their lives. “I’d like to see more people looking into people’s faces, instead of looking in their screens,” Levi said. “He encouraged us to ‘Like’ people in person,” Poswolsky said. “He showed us how to unplug and find moments of zen in a world that can’t stop tweeting. He taught us how to dream.” In February 2016, Levi was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It killed him on January 11, at 32.