In the past year, digital wellness and wellbeing have elevated their status to strategically important important factors influencing the quality of digital experiences. As an example of this increased focus, companies such as Google, Forrester Research, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, and many more have invested meaningful time and resources behind strengthening their capabilities in this area.
However, for something that directly influences our minds and bodies, defining digital wellbeing has been surprisingly problematic. Some might say, with reason, that their health and fitness applications and devices provide them a strong sense of digital wellbeing. But look closer, and you’ll see that the landscape is far more complex than you might have thought of. As a result of this complexity, it also means that there is far greater opportunity to serve people with these wonderful digital tools we have created.
Part of the problem in addressing digital wellbeing meaningfully is like all big concepts, we are yet to reach a consensus on what the term actually means.
Some define it ‘in terms of the capabilities and skills that an individual requires to successfully make use of digital technologies’. Others, such as Commonsense Media define it as the design of products that feel less addictive…and value people over profit.
In its most visible incarnation, digital wellbeing manifests as the amount of time we spend focused on our screens. Numerous tools exist to reflect our screen time, but this is the tip of a very large iceberg. From a technical perspective, digital wellness is poised to shape the way developers build mobile applications—such as predictive automation of routine tasks and context-adaptive suppression of distracting notifications–that can help enhance digital wellbeing.
A wide range of developers, designers, product managers, policy makers, academics, and more are involved in this endeavour to enhance the quality of the time we spend in digitised environments, but until now have done this in isolation. As a result, bringing the community together is of the utmost importance to drive digital wellbeing forward, reach a consensus on the challenges we face and further elevate the conversation to the stage where meaningful decisions are made.
While our cynicism and disillusionment may be piqued following the well-publicised scandals involving technology companies, I feel the time is right to come together and uncover new frameworks, methods and technologies to support global digital wellbeing.
This is why events such as the Digital Wellbeing Festival are so important to advancing the quality of public and private sector engagement on this crucially important topic.