Most digital marketers I know are fascinated with trends. And one of the best tips in predicting trends is that for many major trends, there is often an equal and opposite countertrend. I learned this from Robyn Waters, the former trendmaster at Target, who developed the idea of design for the masses, and described countertrends in her book, The Hummer and The Mini.
Trend: Connecting. Countertrend: Unplugging
So it’s no surprise that as we become more and more focused on technology in our lives, there would be a trend to unplug. A recent cover story in Fast Company described how Baratunde Thurston, one of the most active people on social media, disconnected from the internet for 25 days. Fast Company devoted practically an entire issue to the idea of stepping back from technology. They described who among the digerati digitally detox and how; what you can do to lessen the effect of the technology barrage on your personal and professional ife; what unplugging can do to improve your life; and how to determine whether you are addicted (you are).
There’s already a movement for people to take digital sabbaticals by planning to unplug on weekends or for periods of time every day.
Early Adopters Predict A Trend
I wrote about the emergence of this trend two years ago here on Social Media Explorer. What is most surprising about it is that the early adopters of the unplugging trend are at the highest echelons of the digerati from Google, Twitter and Facebook. They are the developers and presenters at a conference about how to be more mindful and less distracted by the internet, called Wisdom 2.0 that has grown in three years from a couple of hundred to thousands of attendees and is followed by livestream to hundreds of thousands of people around the world..
As parents, many of digital elite send their kids to The Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, where kids aren’t allowed to use screens until 8th grade. The curriculum focuses on physical activity and learning through creative, hands-on tasks like knitting.
What Does This Trend Mean For Digital Marketers
Is everyone going to eventually reject the internet? No. Not only will this not happen but we are going to become more connected as the internet becomes wearable and ultimately implantable. Google Glasses and the Pebble watch, are the first steps in this process. There is virtually no one for whom a complete unplugging is a viable option.
Mitch Joel, in an article asking people not to unplug, talks about how to minimize our Pavlovian response to the onslaught of information and communication by turning off virtually all of your alerts. You really don’t have to know every time you get an email, a meeting invitation, a Twitter follower. You can step back without stepping out. It’s a start.
Like any situation in life that is powerful, out of our control and inevitable, the only way to effectively deal with it is by changing our relationship to it. There are many tactics but there is one way that is emerging as a long-term strategy.
Going Out On A Limb
Personally, my goal in using digital is to regain my focus and attention–two areas that have been challenging since I’ve been deeply involved in digital marketing for 15 years. Taking digital Sabbaticals is healthy, but it doesn’t solve these problems. There is, however, a daily exercise that has proven effective in gaining clarity and enhancing attention and that is mindfulness meditation. Years ago, when I edited an anthology on the subject, I committed to practicing daily for a year and was amazed at the results, including increased creativity. If you commit to a meditation practice as you would to something as simple as brushing your teeth, it won’t seem onerous or strange.
Google trends shows an increasing interest over the last 10 years. It used to be considered woo woo New Age stuff. Today, you’ll see a Harvard Business School professor write about it and companies like Disney, General Mills and Google promote the practice for their employees. A recent Huffington Post article entitled The Daily Habit Of These Outrageously Successful People is about meditation.
So my prediction, is that the next trend among the highly connected (that will ultimately become everyone) will be one that helps people become more focused and allows the mental space for creativity to flourish. We will all be dealing with the effects of too much information forever. Meditation is a way that many will discover can change the way we deal with it. As we become even more digitally connected in the next 10 years, so that we are barely aware of it, awareness and focus will become a quality more highly valued than knowledge. Meditation is the exercise that builds those muscles.