Updated: May 14
BLOG- Feb 2020
It’s coming up on 2 years since I left my “normal” job with the American Academy of Pediatrics and took a leap of faith that I could create a business that would help people spend a little less time staring at screens and a little more time connecting with each other in real time. You know... a simple goal :) I started out full of hope and ego that I could craft something that would speak to people. As to be expected, reality hit me smack in the face. Some hard lessons learned:
Using social media to suggest people take breaks from social media is quite the challenge - Saying I was "using my tech to get you to take a break from your tech" got a chuckle. While using social media is a necessary marketing strategy these days, it is ironic to some for sure.
Setting up an LLC was tricky - especially with a brain trained in non-profit mode.
People love their phones and hate their phones - getting some people to attend a presentation where they fear I may try to separate them from their metal appendages is akin to prying a lollipop out of a 2 year old’s hand.
Restaurants may love the idea of patrons unplugging but are fighting to stay relevant - many are afraid to offend even one customer who might go to the sparkly new restaurant down the street (not to mention the competition from Netflix and Uber eats who help us to never leave the couch).
Mom's with little ones are hard to reach - they have "O" syndrome. They are overwhelmed, over-committed, and over-solicited. Getting them together is like herding cats. To reach them I have to think outside the box and go find them.
All these things did set me back just a wee bit. I found that all the ego and passion in the world doesn’t always make things go as quickly as one would like. That said, it’s ok. Really, truly it is! I’ve got a treasure trove of valuable lessons in my pocket now and found them to be a necessary part of this journey, giving me an opportunity at some trial and error and the chance to find people to collaborate with. All super important details when diving into a problem with as big of a scope as digital dependency (the PC term we have to use because we can’t fully say that these gadgets are addicting yet- I have my own personal opinions on that!).
Things are certainly different than 8 years ago when I first started looking into this problem. Back then we saw the effects of too much tech for teens but there wasn’t much research or info about the scope of the problem.
We were worried about sexy selfies, bullies and online predators. Now the list has grown substantially and we can add mental health issues, sleep problems, tech neck, perfectly curated Insta feeds, comparison culture, and a mountain of apps reaching out to us 24/7.
The research is flooding in about the problems associated with too much tech time but much of it gets outdated quickly and we simply can’t keep up with the rapid pace of tech … it’s like an old VW bug trying to keep up with a Tesla. Not exactly a fair race. Add to that, we are at the very early stages of figuring out how to best help people. I do see similarities to the early 70’s when we were just starting to wonder if tobacco was a serious problem. I'm dating myself now but I recall driving (likely sprawled out in the back seat window minus a seat belt) with my chain-smoking Dad when I asked if we could please roll the window down to let some of the plumes of smoke escape. The response was to keep the window UP due to the noise. This was normal then. Thankfully, we know a lot more about the dangers of tobacco now. The digital wellness business will go the same route and we will likely one day look back and comment about the crazy wild west days of the internet.
Every week there are new stories of the dangers of too much tech time. As humans (most of us whom depend pretty darn heavily on tech to exist) we are left in a state of conflict over how to manage our devices so they help us but don’t take over our lives. Many people want to cut back, but are terrified at what that would look like. Using tech is so tempting so it's important that interventions be fun, engaging and preferably rewarding in one way or another.
Tech is like chocolate for me. Which of the following is correct:
a. I want to have some of it every day
b. I get sick if I eat too much chocolate
c. I try to trick myself by hiding it in my house but who am I kidding, I will always eventually find it
d. If my husband hides it from me I will torture him until he gives me some
e. Even bad chocolate is good chocolate
f. I need to find a healthy balance with chocolate
g. All of the above
The correct answer is all of the above (minus e of course). I'm not nearly as addicted to tech as chocolate but the similarities are for real. It’s not an all or nothing deal and there is no law saying you have to chuck it all or consume it all. I'm not ditching my phone and moving off the grid but I'm also not going to check my social media 60 x a day. Some tech is useful and helps us be productive, others can add stress and be a major time waster. I don't have this all figured out and I am still on this journey searching for life-tech balance but I'm committed to the process. I'm convinced the road will get easier as norms start to change.
Heck they already have. Now, not only can you find helpful tools from Tech giants like Google and Apple, but we have companies like Mudita and Light who are creating alternative phones that are less distracting. Moreover, members of the Digital Wellness Collective are full of eager beavers like myself all trying to find some answers. There are a lot of good folks out there working on this problem.
We have even seen major efforts from companies like the “Miller Lite Offline Can” campaign. Miller Light asked people to unfollow them in October and then this month, rolled out their dark can featuring this message: “A few friends are better than a few thousand followers. Here’s to the original social media. Here’s to the original light beer. It’s Miller Time.” I’m not a beer drinker myself but even I know the power of the message. Cheers to that.
Similarly, Hershey’s chocolate is telling us to forget social media, get together and “Share for REAL”. Makes me want a s'more right now (see chocolate example above). When some of the top leading US brands for social influence tell us to take a break from social media, that is more than a few steps in the right direction. I’m feeling hopeful. Even better, if the LA Lakers have a good year we may get to see LeBron James go into his "Zero Dark Thirty-23" mode where he swears off social media during March Madness so he can focus. LeBron you are my hero. Go Lakers!!
The tides are turning and it's just in time because as humans, we do have to figure this out because a few things have not changed. More and more companies will vie for our attention but there are still only 24 hours in the day and we still have a deep need for in-person connection. Most of us could benefit from a little digital diet. I need it, we need it, our kids need it, and the world needs it. My latest efforts are promoting fun unplugged events like comedy nights and reaching out to families at the Farmers Market. Click HERE to find out more about my hot🔥 Friday night dates with a Rooster named Rodney, a scavenger hunt and how this simple strategy is aiming to increase connection and community. 🐓
If you prefer not to get these message please feel free to unsubscribe. If you are interested in following my journey with the Unplugged Village I hope you will continue to stay on this email list and see where the road takes me. Let’s build this Village together!