BK: Heallo, the application you’ve created, donates silence. Romain Daumont, are you a merchant of silence? 😊
RD: We are the ones who create silence, not the machines! Heallo is a tool with 2 objectives in mind:
The first one: to facilitate the sharing of moments of silence.
Sharing moments of silence is not so simple, we don’t do it often, it’s normal by the way. I did not design the application so that every morning we go and give someone a little heallo (even though there are plenty of scenarios where you can do this of course). But what was very important to me, unlike some applications striving to make us addicted, was to allow everyone to use it when they want and to know that the application is there for them.
The second thing: I would like us to have a different opinion on silence. Often, when we talk about a minute of silence, we associate it with death, with a catastrophe. For example, we do a minute of silence for the memory of Samuel Paty. Moreover in 1922, exactly 100 years ago, Raymond Poincaré declared that one minute, on November 11th at 11 am, would be made everywhere in France. He formalized the principle of the minute of silence in the French Republic. Once again, this was made to honour the war soldiers.
My battle horse is to ensure that silence is not only perceived as a way of honouring the memory of the dead. But to show that silence can also be a joyful moment, where we come together. Not just to think about the past but to create a great positive energy for the future. It is this new way of using silence that I want to promote.
BK: How does it work concretely?
RD: It’s simple. You keep your finger on your smartphone screen for at least 30 seconds continuously and then you sign this time donation.
BK: Why 30s?
RD: It had to be long enough but not too long either. One minute is very long and, I know it seems crazy, people can’t concentrate! Our attention span is low: after 6 to 9 seconds, we tend to disconnect from many things (Bruno Patino spoke about this at length). 30 seconds sounded good to me. In addition, when we share a minute of silence in the literal sense, we share the minute in 2 halves! 30 seconds for yourself, 30 seconds for others!
BK: So, there is a very close relationship between silence and time?
RD: Absolutely. It is often said that when you are having fun, time passes quickly and when you are bored, time passes very slowly. Silence makes us experience time like never before.
Because we actually speed things up by making noise, by being in the action, in the movement, even if silence can be in movement too. The conversations, the music, the noise sometimes lead us to say to ourselves: “I don’t see the time passing, I no longer have the feeling of being in control of things“.
Silence has this beautiful strength and incredible ability- if we manage to make it our own, to make a friend of it- to give us the feeling of being in control. It can be scary because suddenly, precisely, we are facing time. We feel this immensity that we have in front of us. There is a kind of abyss… but from the moment you are firmly anchored in the present, silence is really good!
BK: So, silence makes it possible to tame time?
RD: Yes. What is important is whether it is an imposed silence or a desired silence. The imposed silence, for example, is what can scare children at night. We tell them “go to bed”, we sometimes put on lullabies. But at a given time, at a given age, we are no longer going to put on music. The silence reveals itself to them. It is a passage where they are not unhappy to be in silence, they feel good about it . Silence makes it possible to take the measure of time; and being able to tame time is ultimately to master your life.
There are also people who take a vow of silence. If we talked to them, I’m sure they would tell us that they are happy!
BK: With Heallo, is it about happiness?
RD: We measure things today with GDP, etc. Everything is about money. But there are more and more talks about the measure of happiness. Its very important. Who says happiness says mental health!
With Heallo, I want to participate in increasing the Gross Domestic Happiness all over the planet! Concretely, for example, I would like there to be, by the end of next year, 1 billion people connected at the same time on Heallo for a moment of shared silence. Public gatherings with charities will be a key highlight of our action. Joyful, positive gatherings. The expression of our societal generosity.
I am very clear about my objective: in the same way that we can talk and text, in the same way I would like people to be able to “heall” 😊 I want to create a medium, a classic… an “instant classic”.
We need tools to feel connected as a human species and I think silence and touch have a role to play. Let’s do it in a modern way with this object (the mobile phone) which is an extension of our body! It will have a positive and poetic impact; I honestly believe it.
On this note, Heallo has also entered into a partnership with the Movember Foundation aimed at men’s health and the prevention of typically male diseases which men generally do not talk about. The partnership will be around a minute of silence. Stéphane Beaumont, the great ambassador of this Australian association in France, wants to organize a digital event around this cause. The idea: we are all united in the desire to have these important discussions. All together, we can collectively find the courage to talk about it. It seems paradoxical. Take a moment of silence … to be able to talk about it.
BK: Talking about silence, is that also paradoxical?
DR: No. Of course, we should be able to talk about it. Silence is as rich as speech. It has an incredible power depending on the time, the place. So yes ! You have to know how to talk about silence to use it, you have to talk about it to know how to use it. For actors, for instance, silence is very important… Not to talk about public speakers who know how necessary it is to mark silences. There are plenty of things to say about silence!
BK: But basically, how do you define silence?
RD: I would say that silence is inhabiting time, for a while, without a sound. The important thing is to actually inhabit. Silence is far from being without presence… but yes, that’s it, we inhabit it.
BK: Silence… does it speak?
RD: I’m thinking of all these expressions: “silence that speaks volumes”. “eloquent silence”. When you ask someone a question and the person reacts by not answering and looking you in the eye… Gosh! It’s louder than any words! (laughs) Yes, silence says a lot about how you feel. It is by definition very contextual. Without context it is difficult to interpret a silence.
BK: And can silence heal?
RD: It is not silence in itself but it is silence with a presence that can heal. It releases the positive energy that we send to the other.
When you stay 30 seconds doing nothing on your phone, when you do a Heallo, you give yourself the chance not to have a brain that just absorbs more content, more images. You are no longer in the position of a consumer but you become an actor. A new type of actor: you don’t need to write or to think about your grammatical structure… You just feel and give gratitude & love to a person, to a group of people, to a cause. That’s what I find interesting. Silence heals in that way.
BK: How do you reconcile the name of the Heallo application (Contraction of Heal: heal and Hello) with your positive, luminous and celebratory vision of silence?
RD: Maybe the name of the application will change one day 😊 We had to make a choice. It’s not that we are all sick and that we all need to be healed! 😊 there is a benevolent, positive and gentle side to the application. The idea that by exercising one’s generosity, one does good to oneself and one does good to others. I wanted to insist on the healing and beneficial side of silence. Our new “Heallo, stay in touch” tagline reinforces this sweetness. The idea of reaching people, of keeping in touch, is essential. “Stay in touch” physically on the screen and “Stay in touch”, keep emotional contact with loved ones.
At the beginning of Heallo, we actually had a couple who used Heallo all the time to send love to each other!
BK: The notion of touch is very important in the Heallo experience…
RD: I didn’t want a frightening silence. With Heallo, we are at the conjunction of touch and silence. A super warm, hyper tactile silence. Hence touch to make the presence of others felt… (Touch is quite difficult to express via our digital tools even if it will happen with the metaverse) Touch, a sort of digital hug, seemed perfect to us. Touch in spaces of silence, spaces where there is nothing but to feel. Words would be too much. They would ruin the moment.
BK: A silence that envelops, that touches in short?
RD: Which envelops. That touches.
BK: Gestures need no words. Are gestures therefore like the allies of silence?
RD: Even stronger. Gestures don’t lie. Words lie. And that’s what I find beautiful, in a world where we tend to say anything and everything, to talk for the sake of talking, where we add more… where people want to feel they exist by saying things… that they don’t necessarily think!
Gestures are intentional. I wanted to give the digital world a sober and simple way to be hyper authentic. In this sense, Heallo has its place in the panel of tools we have to express ourselves.
BK: What is the part of silence in your daily life? Your relationship to silence?
RD: I enjoy silence. I would like more silence in my life! I remember moments of retreat during which I spent two or three days in a sort of monastery. I have an extraordinary memory of it. Thanks to the work of memory, we can create inner temples in which we immerse ourselves. I have this in my life.
There is more. Beyond being the designer of Heallo, I am also a user of the application. It really allows me to express myself better. I had lots of different reasons for using it. For a friend in difficulty, for my mother just for fun, a friend with whom I had a fight the day before…. I use and share silence very regularly!
BK: Why Heallo? What is the story, from the original idea to today’s application?
RD: The story began in 2014. My wife and I lost a little boy who lived for a few days. He had a genetic disease. We knew it, we gave him a chance. He gave us a lot of happiness for a few days and then he had to leave. Following this moment, and even before this moment, the silence around this little boy was very pregnant. Our loved ones didn’t know how to react, we ourselves didn’t know what to say to them…there was this really really agonizing silence. And then I realized one thing.
There is a social pressure to speak. We are often told “Don’t keep it in your heart”, “go ahead, say things”… In fact, I understood that what worried me was this very pressure from society which urges us to speak. And I said to myself: “But I have nothing to say and will I be blamed for it? “, “How am I going to be judged for not feeling like speaking ? “.
I had a moment of revelation during the funeral where I felt that with a caring presence, my silence and that of others was enough. There was nothing to be afraid of. It is a silence inhabited by good feelings and positive things.
Soon after, I realized that it’s not just those moments when we need others to let us know: ‘I think of you’, ‘I care about you’, ‘I love you’… There are plenty of other occurrences where we would like to know… At the same time, people don’t know what to say. It’s damn unfortunate!
This is where the idea of creating an application came to me, which allows you to manifest your presence in silence, by touch. “It’s like sending an empty text message,” a friend told me. And he had fun sending me empty text messages for a while! 😊 It doesn’t have the same warmth on Heallo at all. (on Heallo we added a drawing, we spend 30 seconds, etc.) and above all precisely, the sms was not created for that. We had to create a new medium that could do just that.
BK: Who should stay silent?
RD: All of us. We would all benefit from being silent at some point, especially when we are angry, when we are carried away by our feelings; you can say words and deeply regret them afterwards. I love you, but I said horrible things to you. And the words are not easy to erase…immediately anyway. They stay, they cling.
BK: What should not be silenced?
RD: There are plenty of subjects on which we must be heard, raise our voices. There are waves of free speech happening around the world. They are obviously very important, very healthy. Heallo is in no way opposed to that.
But Heallo also comes to show that it is certainly necessary to know how to free speech, but that it is also necessary to know how to be silent. We are not just words, we are not just silence…
Speech can divide, even if it has to be expressed. It leads to discussion, debate, confrontation where silence deeply unites. Silence has this beauty that it abolishes our differences. Everyone has the capacity to share a moment of silence with others without regard to their nationality, their skin colour, their religion. This is also what I want to give with Heallo.
BK: How do you go from a painful personal moment to a business model, to a company, to a life project?
RD: It took me a long time. 5 years. Between the time when I had this first intuition, in October 2014 and December 2019 when a friend said to me: “Why don’t you create your business? “. This “little music” never left me – we didn’t talk about the music by the way…
To all the people who may have, following a tragic or happy event, an idea, a desire, a project, don’t lose it! If you have this intuition, if it persists over time, there is something to do.
“It’s a bit crazy, I said to myself, I’ve never made a mobile application in my life”. But at some point, there is this famous phrase that comes: “If it is not you, who will? and you say to yourself: “I must probably do it”. One removes the impostor in oneself. It succeeds, it doesn’t, you start, you move forward, you learn as you go.
BK: Romain Daumont, a thousand thanks for this great conversation!
RD: Thank you!
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