Digital Wellness Initiative
TREND 1: Consumers demand greater transparency and privacy.
Over the last decade, consumers were smitten with all of the new devices and services that came with Internet 2.0. So smitten, in fact, that we were quite willing to give up significant amounts of privacy and allow a certain amount of power and control to come from corporate advertisers. It seemed like a fair trade-off because consumers have been getting amazing new platforms and services from the web and the corporate advertising model seemed the only way to get it. But recent Facebook scandals have sent people looking for new and better alternatives. (The hashtag “#deletefacebook” and the search term “how to delete Facebook” have been trending up over the last couple of years.) And new subscription-based services are emerging that offer greater transparency, greater privacy, and more freedom from corporate advertisers, which will shape consumers’ expectations into the future. Examples include the subscription-based Medium blog, which has been growing exponentially since it launched, because the algorithm is designed to deliver quality content to users rather than to drive eyeballs to advertisers. One of the fastest growing search engines is Duck Duck Go, which promises not to monitor users’ data. And the new social media platform Vero has been growing on the promise of a more transparent algorithm based on delivering quality to paid subscribers as opposed to corporate advertising.
TREND 2: Technology companies hop on the wellbeing bandwagon.
The tech companies are very aware that there is a rising backlash against technology and that consumers are seeking better solutions that are more aligned with their personal wellbeing goals. Both Google and Facebook have launched new “Digital Wellbeing” tools to help their users establish boundaries and monitors for their own technology use. Consumers are right to be skeptical, as this is a little bit like asking the fox to guard the henhouse, and the tech companies’ ultimate goals have to continue to be toward their corporate advertising overlords. But the technology companies realize that, even in order to pursue their own self-interests (and those of their advertisers), they need to ensure that they are not so disruptive to their users’ wellbeing that they begin to lose market share. Expect more tech companies to hire Digital Wellness experts to help them develop and enhance their products with this in mind.
TREND 3: The rise of “Tech Ethics.”
Technology companies will not only need wellness experts, but they will also need experts on ethics. We’ve spent most of the last century thinking about what we could do with technology. The answer seems to be clear: almost anything. Now the question is what we should do with technology. Should we modify the DNA of our children? Should we implant technology into our bodies to give ourselves superhuman capabilities? Should an automated vehicle drive off a cliff, killing its passengers, to save the life of a child crossing the road? We will need to find answers to all of these questions. People used to be laughed at for studying ethics in a liberal arts college. In the future, expect experts on ethics to be revered as the modern sages of society.
TREND 4: People seek wellness on technology.
In spite of the backlash against technology, technology will continue to rise, and technology as a tool to deliver wellness will continue to grow. People will increasingly use devices to manage their personal wellbeing, including monitoring their diet, sleep or emotional health; managing their exercise programs; or developing a meditation practice. From a medical standpoint, both patients and physicians will turn to technology as their first point of reference. Healthcare will be increasingly delivered via technology, and diagnosis will be increasingly performed by artificial intelligence.
TREND 5: Mindfulness goes mainstream.
Mindfulness meditation today is where yoga was 30 years ago. It is still a fringe activity for a small niche of holistic wellness devotees. But meditation will follow the same meteoric rise in popularity that yoga has experienced because mindfulness is the best approach we have for understanding the algorithms of our mind. As technology helps the world become much more algorithmic, understanding the bugs in our own mental code will be increasingly important. One thing that has slowed the growth of mindfulness is that learning and practicing meditation is actually quite challenging. Ironically, technology will help to solve this problem with apps and programs, such as the popular Headspace or the new Waking Up apps that help people develop their mindfulness skills in a more engaging way.
The Global Wellness Institute serves as an umbrella organization for numerous Initiatives, that are independently chaired and run. The resources, editorial, research and opinions presented by the Initiatives do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Global Wellness Institute.