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March 20, 2017 Digital dieting: getting the right balance of tech in our lives

Sophie Harding

Mindshare’s futures director, Jeremy Pounder, recently ran a #CommsChat on digital dieting, which I would like to pick up on a bit more. The topic emerged as part of Mindshare’s recent trends report, which was the result of extensive consumer research that revealed people are striving to achieve the right balance of technology in their lives.

There are increasing concerns around issues such as online privacy, bullying/abuse and how technology is exacerbating low self-esteem, reduced attention spans, increased stress levels, and diminishing social skills. However, what people are prepared to do about it is perhaps less dramatic. People are far from downing tools and ditching technology altogether.

Digital detox was nowhere near a realistic proposition for most. Smaller, more gradual, behaviour changes that were initiated by trigger points was the reality – more akin to a digital diet.

As part of our #CommsChat, when asked what you would cut out or restrict, the conversation mostly revolved around social media (nice to see the irony wasn’t lost that we were using social media to talk about this subject!). You felt social media was too curated and did not provide a realistic picture. This totally reflected the view of those we spoke to in our study and people are starting to adjust their social media behaviour as a result. Many say they are feeling the pressure and are taking a break from Facebook and Twitter, or giving them up entirely. We are seeing growth in more private networks such as Snapchat and WhatsApp, although quite rightly you raised concerns that platforms such as Snapchat could worsen FOMO (fear of missing out.)

It was also interesting to hear a few of you mention LinkedIn and how people should be using this platform more appropriately. Thanks to this chat, I am now keeping an eye out diligently for those elusive ‘guns out’ profile pics from my LinkedIn colleagues!

Something #CommsChat also mentioned was an effort to cut down your email or overall device use. This was another behaviour reflected in the results of our study. People are making a conscious effort to reduce their device time, whether it be only buying a certain amount of data, turning off notifications, activating airplane mode or switching off altogether at key periods of time.

So what does this all mean for brands? Will less digital lead to a more personalised comms approach? Not necessarily. Digital is the perfect platform to actually enhance personal communications but this needs to be done in the correct way, by truly putting the individual and their experience at the heart of the communication i.e. talking to them like a human! It was also highlighted that it was essential for the digital experience to integrate with the offline and overall brand experience for personalised communications to be effective.
Realistically brands cannot and should not cut out digital altogether because consumers aren’t. The majority of people are tech friendly with 75% feeling that tech has a positive impact on their lives. They are simply making small behaviour changes in order to get a healthier balance of tech in their daily routine.

Brands need to work with this culture of digital dieting, using more data to understand their audience behaviour and the channels they connect with, when and why. Once this has been determined then the right mix of media and channels can be used to talk to people at the right time, in the right place with digital dieting in mind. Delivering real world experiences is an additional tactic, but again the message needs to be relevant to the individual.

Another good approach is to emphasise and encourage the positive aspects of digital. For example Jeremy highlighted how the rise of voice interactions could help the visually impaired with digital in the future.
So what about the future? We contemplated whether less digital was likely, or even possible in a future climate where we will be ever more reliant on technology. The jury is out, as it is likely we will not view digital in the same way as we do now.

Artificial intelligence (AI) will enable more automation, and Internet of Things (IoT) more connectivity. We will spend less time gazing and tapping at small glass screens. Digital will become so integrated into our lives, perhaps via implants, that it is not something we will really think about in the same way.
While this is all playing out, there is likely to be a further reaction against certain types of technology, while we struggle to make sense of it all, but history has shown that likely we will adapt to make technology work for us as individuals and society.

Sophie Harding is research and insights director at Mindshare

What do you think? Continue the #CommsChat on Twitter.

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