In a previous blog post, I talked about the new trend that has emerged as technology users have begun to feel the need to "draw the digital line" and disconnect from their online life. If you’ve been online for any amount of time in the past 5 years or so, I’m guessing you’ve read at least one article about the way technology is affecting our society. As our world runs on increasingly hectic energy, we’re seeing a new generation of techies that is great at multitasking and not-so-great at social skills.
It’s not surprising. Our devices have become extensions of ourselves and are more often present that not even at intimate gatherings. Consider for a moment: When was the last time you texted at the dinner table? Browsed Facebook while watching your favorite TV show? Checked email during a business meeting? Americans have found themselves adrift in a sea of technology, and in response, many are looking for ways to take a break, unplug, and regain the lost connections.
What we’ve seen
We are in the infancy of an anti-tech trend. For example, in 2011 we saw the rise of the “unplugged wedding” that asks guests to turn off all cell phones and cameras for the sake of merely enjoying the event. New businesses have sprung up that draw directly from the trend. Digital Detox is one such company that offers off-grid getaways to help customers “disconnect to reconnect.” Other areas of the travel industry are catching on as well; Marriott resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean have introduced tech-free spaces for guests to escape their devices and opt instead for some reading.
Where it’s coming from
What’s at the heart of this flee from technology? A likely beginning is the pervasiveness of smart phones. 48% of smartphone users begin the day by checking social media before even getting out of bed. Next up on the agenda is a workday full of emails, writing, and other screen time. Of course, that’s assuming that you go into the office at all; teleworking increased by 73% between 2005 and 2011. Then, after winding down with a few more visits to Facebook and perhaps the TV playing in the background, it’s safe to say that our days are filled to the brim with screens. We are always “on.”
How to help consumers unplug
The travel industry is already jumping on board, but there are many opportunities in other sectors as well. Because consumers are feeling disconnected from those closest to them, family- and friend-oriented businesses will experience some of the most immediate benefits. Restaurants should consider ways to create an enhanced community atmosphere, such as discouraging phone conversations inside. Non-profits that require volunteers can benefit by emphasizing volunteering as a family, and the entertainment industry can capitalize on the experience of sharing the experience with friends.
To satisfy the desire for self-improvement, publishers can emphasize the wholesome feeling that comes from experiencing a hard copy text. Businesses that promote general wellbeing may also consider challenging customers with detox-style programs that decrease the use of excess technology, offering a sense of control over their lives.