Understanding Digital Wellbeing

This article has been adopted from norataliga.com and was written by Nóra Taliga, Digital Wellbeing Educator. Nóra is Hekate’s go to person when it comes to digital culture and spaces, tech-life balance and digital intelligence.

Welcome to this great discovery of Digital Wellbeing! Although you might get some ideas about it, I bet you’re curious to know what this term really covers. As a starting point, it is worth to check the words separately:

  • Digital stands for something (basically anything) done by, through, with technology. It is a great adverb expressing the way how something is done. 
  • Wellbeing: wellness, a holistic state of being well. Stands, among many other, for health, satisfaction, fulfilment, happiness. Or you might want to argue here: please do so, it’s up to you what it means to be well for you. 

Now let’s put these two together and see what we get: “Digital Wellbeing is the optimal state of health, personal fulfilment, interpersonal satisfaction and body-mind-spirit integrity that one can achieve while using technology.” I would like us to stop for a moment and reflect on a crucial part of this definition (that by the way, was coined by the Digital Wellness Institute): optimal. Can we say optimal means the best for us? I would dare to, yes. With this in mind it’s easier the understand the concept of Digital Wellbeing: it’s not a rigid, black and white thing, it doesn’t have to be like this or that, instead it’s about someone’s own way to find the point where one can benefit from the joys of technology while avoiding the challenges or harms of it. This will result in a great tech-life balance, that again, depends on one’s own needs, goals, values and so on. 

Our relationship with technology defines the quality of certain areas of our lives. The Digital Wellness Institute designed a map of the areas where one could (/should?) focus on for great Digital Wellbeing. The areas are the so called spikes of the Digital Flourishing® Wheel:

  1. Productivity
  2. Environment
  3. Communication
  4. Relationship
  5. Mental Health
  6. Physical Health
  7. Quantified Self
  8. Digital Citizenship

In the following chapters we’ll discover these one by one. But before we get into details, let’s see why it’s important to improve this relationship, why it’s crucial to obtain a joyful balance while using technology? 

Just some facts: 

  • We live in a digital age where we use tech to study, to work, to arrange official cases, to start and maintain relationships, to entertain ourselves. 
  • With the pandemic (COVID 19) we have to rely on technology even more, our home turn to be offices, schools, banks – all in one.  
  • We spend huge amount of hours in front of screen on a daily basis, regardless of age. “Children under age 14 spend nearly twice as long with tech devices (3 hours and 18 minutes per day) as they do in conversation with their families (1 hour and 43 minutes per day).” 
  • We don’t get education on digital intentional and conscious use of technology to navigate in the Attention Economy of massive digital noise. “The mere presence of your smartphone, even when it is turned off and face down, drains your attention.” 
  • We tend to go with the flow without clear boundaries that would prevent us from (mental) health issues. “Anger is the emotion that travels fastest and farthest on social media, compared to all other emotions.” 
  • We are exposed to anxiety, loneliness, risky healthy behaviours while using Social Media. “30% of 18-44 year olds feel anxious if they haven’t checked Facebook in the last 2 hours…(…).In fact, many are so hooked that 31% report checking it while driving and 16% while making love.”
  • We are exposed to an information overload where we difficulties with evaluating authenticity. “Fake news spreads six times faster than true news.”
  • We manage communities in a digital culture that is still undefined.

Do you also have challenges? Tell us about it, we learn from stories like yours!

Okay, let’s stop here, I hear you. It’s great to know what Digital Wellbeing is, it’s really important to improve the way we interact with technology, I know you get it. But I bet there’s the question in your head: How can we improve our relationship with technology? As an educator, these are the 8 steps I would love you to go through -either for your own Digital Wellbeing, or your community’s improvement:

  1. Play: run and keep your default habits, routine and actions with tech usage and just immerse in the experience for a while.
  2. Pause: pause from time to time and use all your senses to feel, see, hear etc how the experience is going.
  3. Stop: stop to reflect on your current relationship with technology based on the period of active experiencing. How do you feel about it? How was it for you?
  4. Review: take time to observe, collect data on your tech usage. What does the data tell you?
  5. Forward: think about if anything needs adjustment. What possibilities do you have to make changes? Brainstorm, get ideas.
  6. Reset: pick one thing you can do to provoke improvement. Decide what will be your next action. 
  7. Boot: crate space for that action, prepare to make it happen.
  8. Restart: Just do it. 

(Inspired by Experiential Learning Theory.)

I want to acknowledge that it is a complex process where this general approach can be challenging for the ones who are unfamiliar with these tools, especially when it comes to the application and implementation. I know this not only from my own personal experience but I also see it while working on the DigInclude project in which we aim to contribute to designing accessible, barrier-free, inclusive digital spaces.


*https://www.digitalwellnessinstitute.com/ *https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/07/children-spend-twice-long-smartphones-talking-parents/ *https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/691462 *https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0110184 *https://honestdata.com/facebook-addiction *https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.aap9559

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