Pt. 3: How are people unplugging in the face of tech addiction?

Hot off the press – our new Connected Society trend report of 2018 is out! To be customer-centric in the modern digital age, brands should be developing innovations and big ideas that are true to the brand and founded on insights that resonate and inspire with real human beings. In this trend report about the current Connected Society, we explored the drivers behind people’s use of technology, and in turn the new behaviours created from people’s use of technology. What is driving people’s addictive use of connective devices and in turn, how are people defining control over their use of technology? In the next few blog posts, we will be sharing our insights (in bitesize format) to these questions. But you can also download the full trend report here at this link.

In the last two blog posts (here & here), we talked about how people are using connected devices “addictively”. On the other hand we also see more and more people are taking steps to exert control over such constant connectivity.  People are longing for “offline” moments and making effort to disconnect in order to be “online” and reconnect in the real world.  Indeed, in the wake of fake news, filter bubbles, surveillance, and privacy breaches (the list goes on…), 2017 has been deemed as the year of “The Great Awakening“, where there is a growing awareness and realisation of the serious implications that technology play on their lives, accompanied by the potential threats and negativity. That said, in 2018 people are more actively looking for control and seeking to moderate the role of technology in the year of “The Great Reckoning”.

This widespread realization of an ‘always-on lifestyle’ gave birth to the need to unplug and disconnect. People are deliberately looking for offline-time. This is manifested in challenging oneself for a digital detox in one day or more organized for a whole week.  Also phone stacking made its appearance as a social phenomenon. If you just don’t have the willpower to unplug and disconnect, well there are places, from bars to holidays where you literally don’t have the choice because wi-fi signal is deliberately blocked or made unavailable, so you can really focus on the moment and make real social human connections. It is not just the public that is doing some soul-searching in redefining their relationship with technology, even policy makers and corporate companies are recognizing the necessity for employees to unplug and disconnect.  In France, a law known as the “right to disconnect” came into effect last year stating that employees have to legal right to avoid work emails outside of working hours. What’s more is that even insiders from the tech world are counter-reacting. Recently, the Center for Humane Technology was launched by Tristan Harris, former Google design ethicist, along with other prominent former tech insiders and CEO’s, is calling on the companies themselves to redesign their products with ethics, not purely profits, in mind; and calling on Congress to write basic consumer protections into law. They are trying to encourage both the tech world and consumers to move forward to a more conscious, healthy and, ethical way of using technologies.

Both insiders and outsiders are unplugging, because people want to keep control over their behavior. The reason is simple, being in control is crucial for wellbeing. So what can brands do to help people find a sense of control? People want to disconnect because they feel overwhelmed by the constant connectivity and overstimulation induced by technology. As a brand you should stop adding to the abundance and over stimulate, rather offer mindful moments in the customer journey. For example, IKEA’s Hjärtelig collection is here to help consumers unplug and unwind. Designed by Andreas Fredriksson and Maja Ganszyniec,  the collection was inspired by research points from Ikea’s annual Life at Home report that people have trouble disconnecting from work when at home, experience FOMO, and are distracted by their phones. Although it’s not clear how a canopy bed can really help people fight their addiction to smartphones, but we can imagine that it’s easier to mediate, relax, and unwind from all the digital distractions at home when it is decorated by furniture and accessories that look like they came from a yoga studio.


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