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The Future of Digital Wellness Mark Ostach

Ever wonder what our digital life will look like in the year 2034? It includes a generation of young adults called “dippies” aka ‘digital hippies’ that don’t use smartphones. And for those that use smartphone, The Apple 27-Z uses biometrics to lock you out if you’re too stressed.

PREDICTIONS FROM THE PAST

The cover of TIME Magazine in 1965 featured predictions of how computers will impact the future of our economy and our way of life.

IBM Economist, Joseph Froomkin, went on record saying, “Automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week, perhaps within a century, thus creating a mass leisure class.” A 20-hour work week! That’s a far cry from where we are in 2019!

THE DIGITAL INVASION

One of my favorite TED talks was by Adam Alter that discussed why our screen time makes us less happy. Over the past 10 years, Alter demonstrates how our personal space (defined as the time spent beyond working, sleeping, & eating) has been invaded by our screens and social media as depicted in the red area below. The yellow time indicates our endangered ‘personal time’.

Our personal time is what defines our sense of self. Our hobbies, interests, and times of reflection are invaded by social media and smartphones. But this is old news and something I’ve talked about for the past decade. What I’m interested in now is turning the corner to begin sharing what the future of digital wellness looks like.

THE FUTURE OF DIGITAL WELLNESS

I recently shared my predictions on the future of digital wellness at Oakland University as I give my 2nd TED talk. I can feel a shift rising against the digital invasion we’ve been swallowed into over the past 15 years. I’m confident that digital wellness is on the rise.

In the past year alone Google, Apple, and Facebook have begun to establish their views on digital wellness and ways their future products and platforms will be more human centered.

Thought leaders throughout the world have begun discussing digital citizenship and the ethical arguments that will shape policy around the Internet and our device usage. So how does this groundswell in digital wellness shape our future?

MY PREDICTIONS

Imagine yourself 15 years from now. The year is 2034. Apple just released the iPhone 27-Z (with new charging adaptors of course!). Here is what digital wellness looks like in America…

My children and half of their friends don’t have smartphones in College. Referred to as ‘dippies’ (aka digital hippies), this group of young adults find more purpose in nature and relationships then they do in breaking news and taking selfies. After witnessing epidemic levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide among their parents, they realized that it’s not worth it to be connected all the time.

The government is beginning to pilot communication policies within certain industries. These pilot policies include:

  • Sending a maximum of 5 emails a day per employee. Going over your quota can be considered ‘email abuse’, a violation your organization can write you up for.
  • The workday ends at 4:00 p.m and all devices stay at the office. This was influenced by a study from Harvard that showed healthy family structure is the #1 indicator to economic development and low crime rates. People leave work and go home to their families, friends, and hobbies.

Google has developed a smartphone that locks you out of it if your too stressed. Fueled by astronomical levels of exhaustion and burnout, Google responded by creating a camera system that uses biometrics to measure stress and anxiety in the user. It’s helped smartphone addicts curb their addiction by 50%.

Facebook and LinkedIn have merged platforms as a response to the increase in remote workforce and purpose economy demanding a more human centered work-life experience. (ps. 90% of Facebook users are 50 years and older).

SMOKING, SEAT BELTS, AND RECYCLING

Here are three reasons why my predictions may be heading in the right direction:

  1. Smoking was at an all time high in the 1940’s. It’s been said that Generation Alpha (after Gen Z) will end smoking all together.
  2. Seat Belts weren’t required in cars until 1964. There were 50 years of driving since the Model-T was launched that didn’t include seat belts!
  3. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This was a campaign launched in the early 90’s when I was in middle school. I had to train my parents on why recycling was vital to the future of our environment. Now it’s second nature to recycle.

YOUR DIGITAL WELLNESS

Do my predictions sounds as foolish as a 20-hour work week? Maybe? Maybe not!

As we continue to press into the future of digital wellness, I encourage you to raise your awareness on how the content you view each day shapes your thought life and overall health.

Doing so can breakthrough the ways in which content shapes our reality, and allows us to look inward for our sense of purpose and worth. This my friends, is the most sacred part of being a warm blooded creature, not a cold blooded device. Here’s to the future of Digital Wellness!

IN THE NEWS

I had the chance of being interviewed on the ‘Rise of Digital Wellness in The Workplace’. Check out the brief segment below or here.

“The purpose of thinking about the future is not to predict it but to raise people’s hopes.” — Freeman Dyson

I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU

I’m looking to gather stories of people who have had an impact from the work I’ve been doing around digital wellness. If you have any feedback, experiences, or a shift in your digital habits, I want to hear from you! Please reach out to me here.

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Digital Wellness is on the Rise Mark Ostach

Over 200 people pledged to embrace a culture of digital wellbeing last week in Detroit. This was just one small step towards digital wellness within the workplace! Beyond Detroit, Digital Wellness is on the forefront of many peoples minds.

During the Apple Developers conference yesterday, they announced that the new iOS will have settings that focus on your digital health. This announcement comes in the wake of Google’s latest Android updates that focus on digital wellbeing. Beyond these two leaders, there are other organizations embracing a culture of digital wellness.

But you don’t have to wait for your company to implement a digital wellness program. You can start by making a few tiny shifts in your workday. Here are 5 simple ways to help you and encourage your team to embrace a culture of digital wellbeing.

5 Ways to Create A Culture of Digital Wellbeing

  1. Establish communication preferences: In some organizations, there are over four generations working together under one roof. If you prefer that your new intern pick up the phone and call you and they prefer that you send them a Snapchat, then it’s on you to establish your communication preferences.
  2. Set email expectations: Find yourself catching up on email over the weekends? Be sure to let your team know that this doesn’t mean they have to respond. If you haven’t let them know this, there’s a good chance they are monitoring email on the weekends while they should be making memories with their friends and family!
  3. Start your meetings with something good: Positive energy attracts positive people. Start by sharing something positive or light hearted. It could be that you had a great workout yesterday, or you recently adopted a dog, or you reconnected with an old friend. It doesn’t matter what it is; just make sure it’s positive!
  4. Encourage mental breaks: There’s no shortage of research on the benefits of meditation. If you feel intimidated by the idea of meditating, start by taking a 5 minute break and close your eyes and practice some deep breathing. Be sure to put your phone on Do Not Disturb 😉 Have trouble closing your eyes at work? Grab a sheet of paper and write down things you are grateful for. Gratitude helps create a heart filled with Joy.
  5. Promote physical activity: Struggling to find time to exercise? Try squeezing in a quick workout over lunch. And if you plan ahead, you’ll pack your lunch and save money and avoid eating at your desk. Working out over lunch sound impossible? At least take a break and head outside for a lap around your office. Movement and fresh air may give you that burst of energy you need to finish the day strong!

Bonus Tip: Choose Grace over Guilt

Workplace guilt is a silent killer in promoting digital wellbeing in the workplace. If your job allows you to embrace any of the ideas above, then do it! And if you are feeling guilty about what someone may think, give yourself some grace and go talk to them. Let them know that you are choosing to work on your mental and physical health so that you can be healthier at work. There’s a high probability they’re also searching for ways to take a break from the screen. They’re just looking for someone to help get them motivated!

And remember, no setting on your phone can determine your overall health. The sheer will power inside of you will determine how you embrace a culture of digital wellbeing. You can do it!

p.s.

Be sure to check out the video of over 200 people pledging to create a culture of digital wellbeing!

Past Events

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Feeling Lonely?

Taking care of children may be the hardest job on earth.

I’ve had the chance to spend some solo dad time with our kids as my wife headed out for various photoshoots (she’s a gifted photographer). The day would start off with smiles and laughs (as shown above).

But as the morning went on, I found my sanity melting away as each hour that passed felt like an entire day!

Between nap schedules, making bottles, temper tantrums, soiled bed sheets, and amazon prime deliveries (which always come at nap time #doorbell #dogs-barking) I felt like I was going insane.

During any moments of downtime, I found myself turning to my phone to catch a glimpse into the outside world. It went beyond checking social media and email. I found myself checking Slack, Skidmore’s internal messaging system for project updates, lunchtime banter, and random gifs that made there way into the rhythm of the work day. Anything that gave me a sense of connection!

Facebook, Instagram, & The Obituaries?

Although a quick glance at Facebook or Instagram appears to fill the social void of adult interaction, it often leads to feelings of envy and increased loneliness.

I recently asked my mom for perspective on what she would do when feeling exhausted and overdue for some social connection while raising 4 kids in the 1980’s. Her response was telling.

She would reach for the newspaper and read the obituaries.

Yes. The obituaries!

She went on to say that it made her feel better because she knew that she was alive — even if she was juggling the needs of 3 toddlers and a baby!

At first I found this strange.

But then I quickly realized it’s really no different than what motivates us to check our phone.

We crave connection.

We seek attention.

We need human interaction.

We were designed for real relationships.

But it’s not just stay-at-home parents that can feel lonely.

The corporate workplace is also showing signs of loneliness.

So Why Are We So Lonely?

Sherry Turkle, Professor at MIT and author of Alone Together says it best:

“Technology promises to let us do anything from anywhere with anyone. But it also drains us as we try to do everything everywhere. We begin to feel overwhelmed and depleted by the lives technology makes possible. We may be free to work from anywhere, but we are also prone to being lonely everywhere.”

Another great example of Turkel’s work can be seen in this video “The Innovation of Loneliness

Ways to Combat Loneliness

Although checking the obituaries seems like an odd way to combat loneliness, the act of picking up the paper and reading the the death notices probably takes a sum total of 5 minutes.

In today’s scrollable world, it’s easy to spend countless hours hoping to find meaningful connection in our day. And the more we scroll, the less likely we are to find time to be in relationship with those around us.

Deep down inside I know there is a way for us to truly find connection beyond our screens.

Here are a few suggestions to combat loneliness:

  • Seek involvement in community (join a small group, engage in mentorship, start volunteering)
  • Take a mental health day off work
  • Skip the email or text — Call a friend!
  • Find someone to talk too (a therapist, friend/family, co-worker, etc.)

Whichever ways you choose to combat loneliness, there’s a good chance it will have a positive impact on you and on someone else — which is a great way to start making a shift in the loneliness epidemic.

And for those parents out there, be present with your children and put down the phone — especially while changing diapers!

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Need A Break From Your Phone?

When was the last time you went to the bathroom without your phone?

Can’t remember?

Either can I.

I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. It loves me because I touch it and give it attention all the time. And I hate it because I touch it and give it attention all the time.

I’ve been advocating for healthy digital habits for over 5 years. During this time, I’ve watched my own habits go up and down like cell phone reception in Northern Michigan.

I’ve heard some fascinating (and funny) behaviors expressed from audience members during my talks. Let’s see which of the habits you can relate to most.

10 SIGNS YOU NEED A BREAK

#1 — You hide in the bathroom to check your phone. Not sure if this one is just for parents of young children, but I find myself extending my own potty breaks in hopes to escape the temper tantrum and poopy diaper that awaits me. If you don’t have kids, consider this — when was the last time you went to the bathroom without your phone?

#2 — You’re too tired to be intimate but can lay in bed for hours on Instagram. Thankfully, I can’t relate to this one, but I have heard this from multiple audience members. A woman in her mid 20’s stated, “I just want to be left alone so I can go to bed and enjoy Instagraming by myself.”

#3 — You get honked at every time the light turns green. Looking down at your phone during a red light isn’t texting and driving, right? Wrong. Even though it doesn’t seem as bad, there is a good chance that if you’re scrolling at a red light, you’re scrolling going 80 mph down the highway.

#4 — You have aches and pains in places you didn’t know could hurt. You wonder why your neck always hurts. You’re convinced you have a bum thumb. Your eyes burn and your migraine is back. Rx = Take 3 days off your device and call me in the morning. xoxo, Dr. Obvious.

#5 — You can’t put down your phone. Just-one-more-text.You started the day with your phone, you’ve brought it to the bathroom, you’ve driven it to work, you’ve placed it next to your fork at dinnertime. Heck you’ve even set it on your butt for the better part of the day. You’re fighting exhaustion yet your phone is always with you.

#6 — Your doctor has the same last name as a search engine. Who needs a doctor when you have google? Aside from the fact that you’ve misdiagnosed yourself with the measles, bird flu, and other fatal illnesses all within the last 6 months.

#7 — Your 30-minute workout isn’t ‘working out’ so well. You spent the first 15 minutes trying to find that perfect Pandora channel to pump-you-up. The remaining time was spent doing reps of texting, checking email, and the occasional phone call.

#8 — You realize group texts aren’t the same as hanging with friends. It’s 11:00 pm at night and you’re climbing into bed. One of your friends sends a group text to a dozen people. You try your hardest to ignore it and even think about using the Do Not Disturb feature. You opt to head to bed instead and enjoy a broken nights sleep with annoying notifications drifting in your dreams.

#9 — You wish you had more time for hobbies. If only there were more time in the day. Oh wait, what about the 160 times that you checked your phone today? Add that time up over the course of the week and you may find a couple extra hours to dabble in that craft you’ve been longing to take up.

#10 — You’ve written a song about your phone. Okay, this one may just be for me. But while I’m on the topic, take a minute and check out this love ballad I wrote for my phone titled, “Disconnect Me”. #SpokenWord