In perpetual search of digital wellness.

Mitul Chauhan, Head of Content
01 June 2019

You’ve likely noticed some fundamental shifts across pockets of the tech industry lately. After countless months of societal ‘tech-lash’, there has been a slow but sure move towards a new equilibrium in our personal relationships with technology. 

With big tech scandals in abundance and data legislation starting to step up, it’s felt like privacy has been the headline issue over the last year or so. But a greater underlying force has emerged around how we interact with and feel about the technology around us: digital wellness. 

So far, digital wellness has become a bit of an umbrella moniker to cover everything from meditation apps and digital detox retreats to screen time tracking and notification management. 

By definition, it’s a state or way of life where interactions with technology promote optimal health and wellbeing, bringing together body, mind and spirit to allow us to live more fully within human, natural and digital communities. End game: an optimum state of health and wellbeing that each individual using technology can achieve. 

Where interactions with technology promote optimal health and wellbeing... allowing us to live more fully within human, natural and digital communities

It sounds dreamy, but maybe not so pragmatic. Like the $4.2 trillion wellness industry around it, there’s a product or solution for us to get a dose of wellness in just about every corner of our lives. Even Google and Apple have introduced new system-wide features on iOS and Android to help empower users to achieve their digital wellness by shaming them with dashboards of app usage, notification and device pickup metrics.

It’s a start, but it’s apparent that these haven’t been the revolutionary features that were going to cure us of all our screen-related ills. Complex issues call for many hands. 

At the same time that digital wellness has started to gain traction, so have calls to raise the standards to which we develop and design digital products and services. 

Movements like Time Well Spent by the Center for Humane Technology have brought the discourse around design ethics more central, calling out the darker tricks of UX and development that have become commonplace in the battleground of the attention economy. 

The result has been the emergence of reinvented approaches to UX, research and development around ethics-focussed frameworks and toolkits that employ greater user empathy and accountability for the tech we build does. 

The good news: there’s no obligation for every digital experience to be a spa-like wellness-achieving journey of serenity (yet). For consumers, digital wellness is a highly coveted aspiration. Critical awareness and self-moderation go a long way in forming a healthier relationship with the technology around us, but there’s a pivotal opportunity emerging to provide users with products and services that help users achieve their fuller goals in life, not distract from them. 

Trust is becoming an ever more valuable currency in today’s economy. Digital wellness and design ethics aren’t just fads of discourse, but an evolution of customer-centric thinking across the physical and digital.

If you really can’t put your phone down: