Trend: From Wellness Tech to Technological Wellness

We’re inundated with technology promising to make us well–whether it’s smart home gyms or wearable devices. We predict more people will grasp that what matters more is “technological wellness,” a movement that addresses how—and how often—we engage with technology at large: where we start to treat our digital intake like we do our food intake.

Between fitness wearables, smart home gyms, and futuristic sleep headbands, there is no shortage of technologies promising to make us well. But the truth is that most technologies—the technologies that make up the vast majority of our screen time—are harming our health, not helping it. Our screentime, and the number of wellness technologies, surged during the pandemic, and even as we emerge from it, so much more of our life–from work to working out–has been pushed online. The average person now spends about seven hours a day staring at screens. Where is any real wellness when we spend hours a day on Zoom meetings and doomscroll bad news and Instagram all night?  

Our 2022 trend predicts a new kind of “technological wellness” will emerge: one that is less about buying another wellness app, wearable, or device, and more about putting health at the very center of how—and how often—we engage with technology in general.  

Awareness is rising about the tech industry’s obsession with making things as addictive and “frictionless” as possible, keeping people strung along on their platforms: endless newsfeeds; one-click purchases; auto-play (when video and audio start automatically) that zaps us with endless dopamine hits; “live” functions that manufacture the idea that “you can’t miss this”; gamification mechanisms that keep egging you on; and algorithms that put the most polarizing, ugly content at the top. Awareness is rising that all of these addicting, frictionless experiences are about the almighty dollar: the more time we spend scrolling, the more ads are served, the more data is collected, and the more money flows into the pockets of Big Tech companies. 

Our trend explored how the tide is now turning: how more research shows that this situation is trashing our mental health, how Big Tech is moving to right some of its wrongs, and how governments are cracking down on companies that engineered this avalanche of addictive, dangerous content. Since the trend was released in February, there has been much action.

READ MORE about some new moves in technological wellness: 

How more governments are cracking down, such as the UK, whose new legislation gets strict with social media companies enabling harmful online content and threatens to hit Facebook or TikTok with an up to $10 billion fine.  

How new social media apps such as BeReal (now growing like wildfire) are creating a space aimed at fighting all the performance, bragging and toxic beauty on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.  

How there are more grassroots “log off” movements rallying people to just turn it off.  

The Trend in the News

Lawmakers Want Social Media Companies to Stop Getting Kids HookedWired

New bills all cross the US would force platforms like TikTok and Instagram to ditch their insidious features that keep youngsters glued to their phones. There is a new surge of public interest in taking action to protect kids whose lives are now almost entirely mediated by tech. Could new regulations stem the teen mental health crisis?  

BeReal app is Instagram's next rival for teens (It aims at authenticity: no filters, photo editing, gorgeous celebs, and ads–and it’s growing like crazy) – NPR

The new social media platform BeReal asks users to post just one “real”, unedited photo a day. It can't be "liked" or shared. And teens are increasingly choosing a feed that is intentionally boring. It’s expressly designed as a counter to Instagram and Snapchat, which are all about performance: people bragging about vacations or cool parties. On BeReal, there's little fear of missing out and it’s quickly become the second most-downloaded social app (behind TikTok) and its valuation may soon hit $630 million.      

UK online safety bill could set tone for global social media regulation (Is Zuckerberg ready for a nearly $10 billion fine?) – The Guardian

The UK’s new online safety bill is a landmark piece of legislation that could set the tone for social media regulation around the world–with strict new regulations ensuring children are not exposed to harmful content; and, for the big players such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, ensuring that adults are protected from legal but harmful content, too. Failure to do so would mean huge fines for companies, such as 10% of annual global turnover, which, in the case of Facebook, would be more than $9.7 billion.  

California parents could soon sue for social media addiction – Associated Press  

California could soon hold social media companies responsible for harming children who have become addicted to their products, allowing parents to sue platforms like Instagram and TikTok (all companies that had $100 million in gross revenue in the last year) for up to $25,000 per violation under a bill that passed the State Assembly a couple weeks ago. The bill defines “addiction” as a condition affecting kids under 18 who are both harmed — either physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally or materially — and who want to stop or reduce how much time they spend on social media but they can’t because they’re obsessed with it.   

How the Internet turned us into content machines – The New Yorker 

More new books are examining how social media traps users in a brutal race to the bottom and essentially calling for more “technological wellness.” Content defines content as digital material that “may circulate solely for the purpose of circulating” in an overwhelming flood of text, audio, and video that fills our feeds and has grown to encompass just about everything we consume online. The Internet is Not What You Think It Is argues that the Internet limits attention, with a business model of digital advertising that incentivizes only brief, shallow interactions. .   

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