Constructing a healthy digital world

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Remember when global singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran announced he was quitting social media? He bade farewell to his 16 million Twitter followers, dumped his phone and spent months jetting around the world.

That decision, five years ago, was perceived as unusual and even foolish. Quickly though, as if permission had been granted, going tech-free became on-trend. Taking a ‘digital detox’ became something people did through choice, not just bad wi-fi. Duration and extremity became a conspicuous indicator of self-care and even social status: Sunday without email a pedestrian treat, an iPhone-less month at a Fujian ecohaven the ultimate luxury.

Now, mid-pandemic, it seems we’ve come full circle. Digital inevitably dominates our days and, with the live music scene on pause, even pop stars are feeling the pressure to be present online. One thing is for certain: with the news cycle spinning at warp speed, contact with colleagues and friends in mainly 2D, and mental health a WHO-recognised indicator of COVID-19’s impact, taking control of your digital world has never been harder – or more important.

The concept of ‘detox’ has largely been replaced by that of being a ‘good gatekeeper’ – meaning, if you don’t take personal control of your information consumption and online engagement, who will? This creates an obvious tension with the idea of mental wellbeing and mindfulness apps, which theoretically increase a person’s digital usage. Ultimately though this tension exacerbates the point: conscious choice or no choice. Today there is no in-between.

Responsible business means helping people, not hindering them. The notion that organizations have a duty to bolster the gatekeeping abilities of their potential consumers and audiences is wholly new and long overdue. Silicon Valley has attracted plenty of negative attention for its thumb-stopping psychology but, now, attaining someone’s attention online is increasingly a privilege, not a right.

No industry has more of a responsibility to bolster this new dynamic than healthcare. Trustworthy, relevant health information designed to help people is more vital than ever. Helping to balance someone’s needs and an organization’s aims has never required such careful navigation – and it’s an area we’re poised to help with when building communications strategies and tools to reach audiences.

Sheeran’s reason for shunning social media was that he found himself “seeing the world through a screen and not my eyes”. This now sounds both ominously prophetic and rather quaint. It emphasizes the point, though: to gain loyalty and trust in this wholly virtual world, all organizations must help ensure target audiences attain both meaningful information and digital balance.

To talk about creating targeted health programs with digi-ethical considerations built in, please contact us.

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We know there are numerous considerations when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 and what this means for your organization. We are here to help.