You’re having lunch with a group of friends. The conversation is lively and the food is great. At some point, the phones come out, perhaps to check on the kids at home, to snap a photo of the food, fact-check something to prove your point, or to take a selfie for your social media accounts.
Once the phones are out, the dynamic changes. Now you are no longer just having lunch with each other, you are also open to the infinite distractions offered by the blinking screen.
This is perhaps the most common image that comes to mind when we talk about digital well-being: Our inability to peel ourselves away from our devices and how that affects our social interactions and relationships with others.
“There is worldwide concern about how technology is changing our humanity, our lifestyle, our behaviors, and impacting our health, our well-being, and our society as a whole — both in the short and long term,” said Abdullah K. Al-Rashid, Ithra program director. “Although there are many voices raising concerns, there is a lack of agreement about what needs to change, why, and how.”
Achieving digital well-being
To start a productive conversation on how we can promote and achieve digital well-being, Ithra has launched Sync, an initiative focused on exploring and supporting efforts to prioritize digital well-being, locally and globally. The dedicated team’s activities have included conducting a global study across 30 countries to understand the role and impact of technology on the participants’ daily lives.
“This study suggests most people believe [technology] is a blessing that improves their social relationships. This was evident in the pandemic, especially during quarantine and lockdown. As people tried to cope with the restrictions,” said Fahad S. AlBeyahi, lead of the Sync research workstream.
However, the increase in the use of videoconferencing, streaming services, and messaging apps have had negative effects on the public as well. “The impact is even clearer when it comes to privacy and productivity,” said AlBeyahi. “More than 40% of the public think technology reduces their privacy, and they find it more difficult to focus on their day-to-day tasks as a result.”
A global summit
Sync’s recent summit on digital well-being held at Ithra under the theme “In Pursuit of Digital Truth,” saw the participation of 60 speakers from around the world and focused on five key areas of concern: digital addiction, privacy, fake news and misinformation, relationships, and algorithms.
Through panel discussions, workshops, and a variety of creative immersive experiences, the two-day conference provided a venue for speakers and attendees to ponder all the ways in which we interact with, regulate, and design digital tools and services.
By educating the public about digital well-being best practices, showcasing the latest research, and hosting such events, Sync hopes to facilitate the creation of a global advocacy movement that strives to shift public behavior and encourage individuals to build a more conscious and balanced relationship with the digital tools and services that they use.
Speakers at the summit included authors and representatives from the tech sector, NGOs, charities, governments, and the cultural influencer community.
To learn more about the summit visit: https://sync.ithra.com/sync-summit.